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#34656 - 06/11/15 12:29 PM New Apple Maps horror: Don't go to the desert!
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
One of my girlfriends and I just returned from three weeks in the desert in Oregon, California, and Nevada. We were researching and photographing old 1800s-era mining ghost towns for a book she's working on, which means we drove 3,800 miles in three weeks taking photographs of ghost towns.

Needless to say, we spent much of that time in remote places with no cell phone coverage or data. I would find the location of a prospect, put it in Apple Maps, and we'd head off.

Learn from my mistake, ladies and gentlemen. Don't use Apple Maps for this.

For starters, Maps' coverage of remote desert areas is...iffy. On several occasions, we were directed down roads that don't exist. It's not that Maps doesn't know about the roads; indeed, it's exactly the opposite. Maps has a remarkably complete map of ancient logging roads, old Forest Service roads, and so forth, and on several occasions directed us on paths that were clearly roads once decades ago, but are no longer. (I'm a bit mystified, to be honest; in one case, we were told to turn down the remnants of a "road" that clearly hasn't been a road for decades, long before people ever started digitizing maps or using GPS. So how do it know?)

More worrisome, though, is a rather sinister bug we uncovered. If oyu make a wrong turn, Maps will try to recalculate. If oyu have no cell signal, Maps will stop updating your position on the map while it tries to get a data connection, which it will never succeed in doing...it just sits there forever with the "recalculating" notification spinning endlessly. It also appears to consume memory forever in its endless quest to recalculate, because Maps will, after a while, kernel panic and reboot the phone.

Next time, I'm taking Google Maps.

We got some great pictures, though. I'll eventually be posting them on my blog.
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#34660 - 06/12/15 05:41 AM Re: New Apple Maps horror: Don't go to the desert! [Re: tacit]
Virtual1 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Iowa
ummmm... GPS much? I would think an updated Garmin NUVI would be a much better idea than a smartphone, if you're going to be "getting away from it all" for awhile.

Also keep in mind that any GPS is going to fail where the source material (road information) is inaccurate. There are numerous "horror stories" about people placing too much "blind faith" in their GPS.

The most glaring (and probably least credible) example I can think of is where a gps said to someone "TURN LEFT" and they immediately did, running off the road.

More practical and better documented examples exist of people trying to use a GPS to drive them through the desert and turning off a highway onto side "dirt roads" and driving until they got their grocery-getter stuck in the sand dozens of miles from civilization, with no cell phone reception, no supplies, and no one notified of their travel plans. Deserts are well-known for this GPS problem, and some counties even post signs warning people of the dangers of following their GPS blindly, as well as the important need to notify others of your travel plans, packing supplies in case of breakdown, and avoiding unmaintained roads. Those signs are there because those sorts of mistakes have proven fatal or nearly-fatal on numerous occasions.

I've also read of numerous examples of GPS maps thinking a road goes through when it does not, even with updated maps. I have that issue right here in town, it tries to steer me through residential roads to get onto an expressway when there is NO entrance and I come to barricaded dead-ends with the expressway in sight on the other side of a ditch. I have to endure several minutes of "please turn around" as I know where the actual entrances are, before it finally switches to the correct route. (there are three nearby roads that ALL are marked as intersecting the expressway, none of which actually do, so it keeps trying to take me to the next one when I move on)

There's a more famous example of that in Nevada iirc, there's a long access road that almost connects two roads at a T, and almost every GPS tries to direct traffic down it instead of taking the exchange ahead. The road is long, and finally dead-ends with NO turnaround. Because this sucks in 18-wheelers as often as several per day, requiring them to BACK UP OVER A MILE, they've posted massive signs at the exit to the road, saying "THIS EXIT DOES NOT CONNECT TO XXX, YOUR GPS IS **WRONG**, CONTINUE TO NEXT EXIT". This had been going on for almost a year, and despite many complaints to the GPS vendors, the mistake had remained on the new updates.

The lesson then is "verify the route with google maps and VISUALLY trace the proposed route prior to taking it". Make adjustments if needed. You may have to make a travel sequence with waypoints to force your GPS to not take you down stupid routes. I think your described road trip could have used better planning the day before embarking on each leg of your journey.

Side-rant... I wish my GPS had the ability to select a segment of road and temporarily mark it "impassible". When I get a closed road, road construction, bridge out, etc, it can be quite a struggle sometimes to force my gps to find "the next best route". We had a rural bridge get taken out in a flood a few years ago here, and good lord, my gps would NOT give up on that bridge ("please turn around!") until I got almost two miles from it. "You are NOT HELPING here!" I ended up doing quite a bit of zigzagging through the roadways that hugged the river (when I was nowhere near a bridge) until it finally routed me to another bridge. The next time I had to take that route, I realized what it was trying to do and got on the GPS's preview, and set a waypoint at the bridge to the east now that I knew where it was, and things went much smoother. It would have greatly simplified things if I could have just moved the arrow to the little segment over the water, clicked, and marked IMPASSIBLE and triggered it to automatically reroute me, until which time I removed that mark. My newer Nuvi has a "detour" button I can hit anyway, that shuts it up about turning around, but it still relies on me to find my way around the road closed / detour, at which point it recalculates and gets me back on track.

and total segway... map making is expensive and time-consuming, and companies are deeply tempted to copy their competitor's maps instead of licensing them. For this reason, map makers sometimes leave a deliberate error in their map (a grid of roads, where a single segment does not go through, they will leave that segment in) so if someone copies their map, they have a case to prove it. I'd imagine there's a name for those 'telling blems' but I don't know what it is. I wonder how many gps mistakes are due to that?
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#34664 - 06/12/15 07:53 AM Re: New Apple Maps horror: Don't go to the desert! [Re: Virtual1]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Hmmmm. Sounds like paper maps are not so bad after all. smile
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#34667 - 06/12/15 08:42 AM Re: New Apple Maps horror: Don't go to the desert! [Re: tacit]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Don't count on Google Maps being any more accurate in remote areas than Apple Maps. At their heart both are dependent on data provided by a variety of government entities and based on surveys that all too often were inaccurate in the first place. When I was on the board of a water district we decided to GPS locate all the meters, valves, etc in our system using a top of the line hand held GPS. When we compared the actual GPS data to the surveys provided by the county we discovered the mapping point used as the basis for all the land surveys in the area was located nearly half a mile from where it was supposed to be so all the county maps using Latitude and Longitude coordinates were off by that half mile. Once we discovered and reported the area it took three years for the county to update its maps and for that information to trickle up to Google so their maps were correct. Since that discovery, every property sale in the area has had to have a new survey performed based on the actual location of the survey point. Errors in urban locations generate a lot more complaints and data and thereby corrected but not so much in rural areas and there is virtually zero feedback of location data in remote areas so the bad coordinate data remains unchanged.

By the same token, as V1 so lucidly points out, Google Maps are as dependent on data connections as Apple Maps for downloading map data and routing/rerouting information and are therefore equally likely to be less useful in remote areas. That is where a GPS unit with built in maps becomes essential. It is a really rare location where enough you will not be able to see enough satellites to get a position.

Where Google and Apple maps have it all over built in GPS maps is in urban areas where construction changes the roadways almost on a daily basis. For example here in Fort Worth there is a new toll road being built and the location of the entrance has changed four times since January. Apple Maps is seldom more that a few days behind the latest change. The GPS unit in my car and in my camper on the other hand are not even aware the new toll road exists much less where the entrance is this week. The location of the dirt/gravel road leading to one of my favorite camping locations in the mountains of northern New Mexico however has not changed in over 110 years but the road surface changes from year to year based primarily on winter weather conditions. It does show up on the Garmin in my camper as well as Google and Apple maps but the Garmin thinks the road is paved (it hasn't been in probably decades).
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