Residents of cities across the U.S. have reported sightings of strange Apple vans in their neighborhoods.
At first, no one knew quite what was the function of the vehicles. However new reports specify that the Apple vans are being used to collect data which will be used in an updated version of Apple Maps, writes Jacob Kastrenakes for The Verge.
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Improved version of Apple Maps on the cards
Reports claim that the project is supposed to collect high-quality mapping data, photos of storefronts and 3D imagery which will be used in Apple’s version of Street View. Despite speculation from some quarters, there is no suggestion that the Apple vans are connected to the rumored Apple Car.
As it stands, Apple Maps is based on data from a number of outside sources. This amalgamation of data leads to the service’s infamous mistakes, and the collection of its own data will be a big step forward for Apple.
If the Apple vans can gather good data, Maps could make huge strides in catching up with rivals such as Google Maps. Reports claim that Apple wants to make the shift to using its own data in 2017, but it may take longer to collect robust data.
3D maps to rival Google Street View
As well as mapping data, the Apple vans are collecting imagery and 3D data. Photos of shopfronts will be used when displaying information about that business in the app. These images are currently supplied by Yelp.
The 3D data will not be used to create a copy of Google’s Street View, but will rather form part of a street-level version of its 3D city maps. The Cupertino tech giant believes that it can offer a better solution than Street View, although details are thin on the ground.
Despite the presence of its vans on the streets of the United States, it is not thought that Apple will make any official announcements on the projects for a long time. Cupertino usually keeps quiet about its future projects, although some commentators believe that it could use the data to improve Apple Maps little by little.