Rumors of an Apple autonomous vehicle reached a fever pitch a few months back, fueled by images of minivans leased to the company equipped with all sorts of gadgetry on the roof. As it turns out, the mystery vehicles aren’t related to Apple’s self-driving vehicle ambitions but to its mapping efforts.
The vehicles, which have been spotted in large cities like Los Angeles, Dallas and New York throughout the year, are being used to gather base data to improve Apple’s mapping service.
Sources familiar with the matter recently told 9to5Mac that Apple wants to shift to its own in-house map database by 2017 although a 2018 switch may be more likely as they’re reportedly running a bit behind.
Apple famously launched its own mapping initiative for iOS a few years back. Without in-house mapping data to draw from, the service was put together using data stitched together from multiple third-party sources such as TomTom.
The end result was quite the mess, leading CEO Tim Cook to ultimately issue a public apology for its poor showing. The debacle also allegedly led to the firing of Scott Forstall, leader of the original software team that developed iOS.
Updated mapping data would allow Apple to provide a much better overall mapping experience. What’s more, sources say Apple has recently started collecting data for 3D street views much like Google’s existing offering.
Image via 9to5Mac