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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Weird news - Apple Maps sending people to a desert in Australia

Earlier this year, the confrontation between Google and Apple only got worse when Apple removed Google Maps as the default maps application and replaced it with Apple Maps (this shows how bad the relationship has got; at one point the Google head was also on the board of Apple before they started competing with each head on after the release of Android). Soon enough, it became clear that the release of Apple Maps was a rushed affair, primarily because the database for the maps was not yet complete. So forget the quality of details in Google Maps, but the Apple Maps application even had some parts of cities being missed, and in one case, even a bridge was not there on the application. So there was a lot of ridicule for the Apple application, and eventually even though Apple rectified some of the problems, they had to do a public apology and fired the head of the Maps application development unit.
In the recent past, the spread of GPS based navigation has been impressive, with a number of drivers using these apps to navigate their way around unknown parts. They are mostly accurate, but every once in a while there is a situation where it shows that people are starting to depend on GPS almost entirely, and end up in strange situations. There have been cases where people have been sent down one-way streets, once a large load was sent down a street where it was difficult to get out of, but even these were seen as somewhat funny situation (although the people directly involved would not see them as funny).
But this particular situation in Australia is pretty bad. Most of Australia is barren land, a sort of desert with very few people and large sections without telecom coverage. So when the Apple Maps started sending people through a dirt road and into a desert like area where there was no telecom coverage, no water, and sand that would cause vehicles to get bogged down, it started worrying the police. They had to keep coming in to rescue people and worry about whether people might die in the heat and without water, and so the police have blamed the app for causing people to get off the highway and threatening their lives (link to article):

The Murray-Sunset National Park is in Victoria's far northwest, a relatively untouched semi-arid region accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicle. Clemence said at least six vehicles had become stuck on the desert park's sandy tracks after being directed by the iOS mapping system to turn off a long and infrequently sign-posted stretch of highway between South Australia state and Victoria. "These people have still been rescuable. But we've just had a 46C day (115 degrees F). If they were out there in that temperature and out of phone range, they would have been in serious trouble," he said.

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