If The Map Is Wrong, You Have Nobody To Blame But Yourself

from the cartography-2.0 dept

Online mapping services have proven to be very popular, and the technology that can produce accurate driving directions on the fly is definitely impressive. But there are still gaps in the technology, and if you every ge badly burned by inaccurate directions, it can really shake your confidence in a given service. And though the technology will improve, it will still make mistakes. Now Tele Atlas, one of the largest providers of map data, is asking users to help it identify mistakes. So if it tells you to go left at the junction, and you should’ve gone right, you can let it know. This is a good start, but who’s going to remember to go back to the site and let the company know about a mistake after the drive is over? The real breakthrough will occur when reporting an error can be done easily, perhaps through an on-board navigation device. No solution will ever be completely perfect, but blending technology and human awareness should, over time, make these services much better.

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Comments on “If The Map Is Wrong, You Have Nobody To Blame But Yourself”

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Paco says:

Re: Even so...

I agree that having a Thomas Bros Guide with you is a smart move, but you can run into the same problem with these. Here in the Denver area, the roads are changing so much, that my guide from 2005 is already outdated in many places.

If all else fails, bring your cell phone and the phone number of where you are trying to get to…any pray that the person on the other end knows how to give directions!!

Erstazi (user link) says:

Re: ...

“but who’s going to remember to go back to the site and let the company know about a mistake after the drive is over?”

As things become more and more leaning toward the “open source” ideology, many things will be amended efficiently. IMHO, I think this will be a very productive path for this company.

There will be some that go back, and those few shall help the company have an achievable goal.

Rick says:

Re: Re:

“Yes, but what happens when someone gives it wrong info for fun ?”

A similar situation to what already happened when you got the bad instructions in the first place… The goal of these people is to allow for community contributed data, which is typically self-policing (but not always). I would imagine though, that they aren’t letting boatloads of random visitors actually _change_ direction entries, only provide helpful details or point out glitches in the directions through comments.

meOIP says:


I use maps to map out drives to areas I am familiar with but aren’t sure the exact location or directions. Often times I modify the directions or use them as a suggestion. Where I may go back to inform I would be more likely to voice my opinion before I actually leave. In other words I would suggest an alternate route or a better route, this could be a more powerful tool, if a service used pins like local.live.com I could pin out the route I am actually going to take and they could use that to help.

PhysicsGuy says:

another person turning in my driveway...

not that i’ve used a it a lot, but mapquest has yet to fail me. i did get directions once, though, in which i was instructed to turn around in some guys driveway… it’s one really messed up part of the road system (in massachusetts go figure) where the only way to get to where you want to go is to take a right then turn around… i feel sorry for the person whose driveway mapquest is telling people to turn around in though.

BillDivX says:


I’ve had wrong or confusing directions given about 3 or 4 times. It sucks when you are going somewhere you are totally unfamiliar with. In fact, on Wednsday night I went to a concert and used google to get directions, and the name of the off ramp was totally wrong. Most of the time, it gets me close enough I can figure out what happened, but it does make me nervous. I think these systems must be vastly improved by any ability at all for users to let them know when they are wrong. Sure easier means more people do it, but hey, at least start somewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

GIS data

I work for a county government in Michigan and we maintain our own road data for the county. We have the most accurate road information available for our area, as it is with most local governments. The problem is most local governments either charge too much for the data or they have too restrictive of policies to even share their data. This prevents this data from being freely shared between other government agencies and inhibits private mapping companies from getting accurate information.

When GIS (geographic information systems) were first starting to get implimented back in the 90’s the focus was on making money from selling maps and data. Since about 2000 the focus has changed from trying to turn a profit with these system to the power of sharing information. Local governments in general do have very accurate information (at least compared to Navteq and TeleAtlas) and they are all eventually going to come around and start sharing at least their road data more freely (many already do). When this happens the maps you find online will definitely get mroe accurate.

Personally I’ve been contacted at my county several times for street data, but we have policies againts them sharing the data and what we charge for the data is quite prohibitive as well. So needless to say, good luck with navigating in my county.

DV Henkel-Wallace says:

Automatic would be cool

Actually if the data could be anonymised, the navigation system could report this info directly. That is, if people routinely failed to take a certain exit it could mean that the exit is hard to find or that it’s a suboptimal route. In addition the route software could adapt over time to things like construction and the like. Consider it annealing for the navigation database.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Bad maps, what to do?

I have had similar problems with directions. If you want to go to my house you will be told to drive on a bike path by GoogleMaps and Mapquest. It also would rather you drive an extra 1.5 miles to get to this bike path instead of just crossing the main street and following the road to my house. It is rather amusing but I wanted to inform them of the mistake before some cyclist or pedestrians get smeared when my family visits from out of town. They don’t have any means to convey this information. It looks like Tele Atlas is starting a Wikimap!

just ®idiculous says:

Re: Bad maps, what to do?

It may be there, just difficult to find. I submitted a driving directions ‘bug report’ to Yahoo 3 months ago, and Yahoo Maps customer service replied and said “It is through user comments and feedback that we are able to continue to make improvements to Yahoo! Maps. Once again, thank you for bringing this error to our attention.” But the bug is still there.

If TeleAtlas is planning to more quickly implement user feedback, then kudos!

just ®idiculous says:

who's going to go back and notify???

I am.
I already do, but it requires going online and submitting a few lines about it, and if it happens on a route I travel infrequently, then its easier to forget where and when the error occurred. If I could report it from the device, that would be great! I would think that Techdirt might have been in good position to realize that avid users actually like to make helpful contributions. Present post excluded.

cycle003 says:

use satellite-road map hybrid

When possible, I try to look at the satellite image when travelling to an unfamiliar location. While the images are often outdated or low resolution, 1 meter resolution images exist for a significant portion of the US. These images, especially when overlayed with a street map, can help in determining if the route seems reasonable and also can help provide landmarks, etc.

Myself says:

Make it easier to report...

All they need is an “error button” on the software that notes your current GPS location and starts up a voice recorder. Just dictate the approximate problem, and next time you’re connected to the internet, the software uploads the report to them.

It doesn’t need to be perfect, just a basic hint of what’s wrong so they can go get the more recent data and fix it. Their techs will be doing the gruntwork of integrating updated maps into their database, all the users need to do is tell them where attention is needed. The easier they make this process, the better it is for everyone.

West Texas (user link) says:

Mapquest problems

Two years ago I noticed a small problem on Mapquest. They had my city, the bustling metroplex of Farwell, Texas located near Alpine… about 350 miles away.
I let them know about the problem and they said they couldn’t do anything to help. At all.
However, if I was interested in contacting the three services they use to get information than I might be able to get something changed.
I contacted all 3 and they all said, “It must be the other guy, we have you in the right place.”
So, after a year of constant e-mails, I finally got one of the companies to take a look… and they realized they were wrong.
6 months later Mapquest finally updated Farwell started searches from the about 10 miles down the road. 6 months after that they found the right spot.

Narg says:

Fixing small errors is nice, but there's a bigger

Most on-line (or off-line for that matter) maps still have a big problem with differentiating street types. Most can’t tell the difference between main throughfares and residential roads. Some can’t even make out a highway properly. Because of this most can’t navigate inner-city routes worth a flip!

Bryan Price (user link) says:

I reported an error to MS about MapPoint

I found really bad directions from MapPoint. And I sent MS feedback on it. I was told to go right and drive some several hundred feet to my destination. I was supposed to turn left.

Had I turned right and gone the number of feet I was told to go, I would have ended up in the Atlantic ocean, and yes, I could have made the turn onto the beach and into the ocean, there wasn’t anything preventing anybody from doing that. It was surreal.

mkvf says:

‘if people routinely failed to take a certain exit it could mean that the exit is hard to find or that it’s a suboptimal route. In addition the route software could adapt over time to things like construction and the like. Consider it annealing for the navigation database.’

That would be the best solution – GPS tells you whhen you’ve gone offf the ‘intended’ route anyway, so log (and send details) when you do, and if you get there quicker use it adjust the route – no need to make an effort to report it, and it would get infromation from every journey.

aReader() says:

It is possible

Now, Google allows you to store your directions. You may not go back and report the error immediately, but when you go back to retrieve your other directions, you may report an error with th previous one. A reward for reporting an error could even make this faster and better. If Google Maps provides a nice interface that allows users to mark the *first* step, that was wrong, it is good enogh.
GPS may not work that well, as you cannot report an error while you are being lost – the reason simply is that you won’t be lost if you know that the directions are wrong. So, this is certainly a feedback kind of system. Also, it would be nice if they flag the error and tell that to other users when they search for “similar” directions warning them to watch out. They eventually should fix their data. It would also be great if they can integrate the user’s comments with the directions that might be useful to other users. The comments such as “there is a lot of traffic on this freeway due to construction….” or “they have speed traps at this location, watch out or you will get a ticket” etc..

Jose Padrino says:

Google Maps

Google maps is a helpful tool. We use it everyday in our work. Today I found something interesting, in the maps.google.com you search for Sherberth Rd at Kissimmee, FL (between Osceola Pwy and US 192) just beside Black Lake Rd, and you won’t find in Sherberth Rd any intersection between Maingate Ln and Wide World of Sports Entrance Rd. (NAVTEQ)
I went to Osceola County web site (http://www.osceola.org/index.cfm?lsFuses=Department/AboutOsceola/7022) and looked to the same area and I found an intersection called Reedy Creek Blvd at Sherberth Rd. (Tele Atlas)
My question is: Why the maps.google does not have this existing Reedy Creek Blvd? I know the Google maps and Google earth maps have some delay but this inconsistency make wonder How can I know when the Satellite photos were taken or the year of the maps drawings? Please, give some guidance on this issue. Thanks. Jose

Buddy Cameron says:

We have heavy concrete trucks, swimming pool trucks, lumber trucks with heavy front-end loaders, elevator equipment trucks, sod trucks, lawn care, paint trucks, which are given the directions to turn onto Bryn Bach Lane to reach Grenata Preserve Drive, a destination which is another five hundred feet farther north on Evergreen Mills Road in Leesburg, Virginia. These trucks have cracked up a very expensive asphalt portion of our road and driveway.

So far Mapquest has not helped the situation.

We have put up some signs in English and Spanish. We have talked to the developers in the new development that is being constructed. We feel that Maptech has not had the chance to give it to Mapquest to update its maps, but it sure is causing us a lot of trouble, and the drivers also more trouble as they can’t turn around and have to back up four tenths of a mile to the main road before they can go north another four hundred feet to turn into Grenata Preserve Place and their destination.

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