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Open US GPS Data? 327

tobiasly writes "I read an article today about a map error on the popular Garmin GPS devices which often leads to truckers in a particular town becoming trapped. From my own experience, every electronic map I've ever seen (Google, Mapquest, my Mio GPS) has the layout of my neighborhood completely and frustratingly wrong. A quick search turned up only one open-source mapping project, but it's for New Zealand only. Why are there no comparable projects in the U.S. or elsewhere? Obviously such a project would need a good peer-review/moderation/trust system but I'd gladly put in the time necessary to drive around town with my GPS in "tracking" mode, then upload, tag, and verify my local data. Has anyone with more technical knowledge in maps and auto-routing looked more into this? Are there technical limitations to such a project? Should the government subsidize a project to create open, free, up-to-date electronic maps? Surely there is a public benefit available from such a project."
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Open US GPS Data?

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  • TomTom MapShare (Score:2, Informative)

    by autophile ( 640621 )
    Try TomTom MapShare [].
    • Re:TomTom MapShare (Score:5, Informative)

      by Laughing Pigeon ( 1166013 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:44AM (#22558032)

      Try TomTom MapShare.

      Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with an "open source project". It is more like:

      1. Make something that is so-so.

      2. Profit!

      3. Let the people who pay a lot of money for this so-so product do work for You without paying them for it. These users will take Your product from the so-so stadium and turn it into a good product.

      4. Even more Profit! without any costs.

      Reminds me a bit of cddb... What the OP wants is something like Freedb.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        No, no, not so-so, TomTom!
      • Re:TomTom MapShare (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Creepy ( 93888 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:29AM (#22558516) Journal
        If you wait for a manufacturer to make all the corrections, you will wait forever because they can't check all places at all times and certainly wouldn't know all the best PoI and restaurants even if they're full time residents. For instance, both TomTom and Garmin GPS list a TGI Fridays that was a few blocks from my home as still in business when, in fact, it moved 2 miles away over 6 months ago and is being replaced by a new restaurant. There is also a fantastic Thai restaurant (it has won awards for best Thai) tucked behind a strip mall that isn't listed and I'd love to add it.

        Personally, I like features like this [] on TomTom, but yes, an open source database would rock. Even something that pulled from google maps would be cool, IMO, as long as google maps stays free.
        • Re:TomTom MapShare (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Da Fokka ( 94074 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @01:46PM (#22560784) Homepage
          Apparently you don't understand the concept of cuisine so I'll try to enlighten you. There is very little quality difference between a reasonably priced and expensive restaurans. By and large the food is pretty decent but you'll end up with mediocre food in restaurants with a Michelin star just as often as you will end up with stellar food in a more mundane place. The difference, my friend is exclusivity. There is some part in our brain (I believe it's called the Nucleus Superfluous) that makes regular stimuli more enjoyable when you have been waiting for very long. This is exactly why so many people went to see Episode One, while there was very little reason to assume it was going to be good even before it was reviewed.

          The same principle holds true for restaurants. The first couple of bucks will go into food quality and better service. There is a very real difference between a $5 hamburger meal and a $15 steak. But the next $50 will go into square plates, french accents and, of course, exclusivity in the form of missed opportunity costs. You pay for the fact that they might have sold the food to the person currently waiting at the bar.

          In this light you'll probably understand how downright stupid it is to share that little known Thai restaurant behind the strip mall with the rest of the planet. Before you know it, hordes of TomTom-toting patrons will crowd your once lovely restaurant. Prices will skyrocket, portions will shrink and before you know it it will obtain a Michelin star and you will have to find somewhere else to eat.
        • They buy them.

          You can buy them too. Very expensive, and most of the US maps are completely shite anyway. If you were to create a good database of routes, streets etc, the PND and phone manufacturers would love you.

          The only really updatable maps I've come across are Google maps, and of course Nokia have Ovi on the way, where the whole point is to be able to sync routes/locations with your friends.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )
        Free Map data source? easy. grab the Us census bureau tiger line Census data. That's what most of them out there use to begin with anyways. Last time I checked it was a free download. i was working on a linux GPS navigation app with it for a car pc project. Then I found how to run a windows app for it under wine and my need was filled.

        The data is actually easy to parse. far easier than navteq data.
    • Folks, be aware that one way that a mapmaker "improves" on a copyright protection is to intentionally alter a small section of a map (and in a book, a few at random) that is hopefully not used. This helps them to prosecute somebody that steals the map information and resells it. Granted, this is known for hard-copy maps, but I believe it is also true for GPS maps as well (call them the "soft-copy" versions).

      I can attest to this because near where my parents live on most maps there is a road that appear

  • open street map? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:39AM (#22557956) []
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I've seen this and it lacks a WHOLE lot of data. It will take an army of volunteers dwarfing the number working on even high profile projects like the Linux kernel to ever get this thing off the ground. Can it be done? Only time will tell, I suppose, but this project is lllloooooonnnnggg ways off from being useful everywhere.
      • I disagree. OSM is very useful in many areas, including where it is hard to find maps (try Baghdad [] for example). With the recent addition of TIGER data [] for the whole U.S., OSM became useful even in the U.S.

        this project is lllloooooonnnnggg ways off from being useful everywhere
        This is obviously not true when considering there have been commercial applications of OSM for a long time [] (Isle of Wight - October 2006). See also this related wrap-up entry [].

        I am amongst the ones who believe we're only seeing the beginning of OSM everywhere. Contrary to your comment, I believe it is happening and will not take that long to reach some level of overall maturity. As to why is doesn't need an army of volunteers? Because, as done with the TIGER dataset, datasets are directly piped into OSM, as done in the Netherlands last year [].
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Polls in the OSM community have shown that a dedicated mapper can exhaustively map an area of 40k inhabitants in urban areas, and about a quarter of that inm more rural areas, while the occasional mapper can still easily cover an area of tens to several hundred inhabitants. The only drawback is (in opposition to wikipedia for example) that you have to be physically at the location to do a current and comprehensive map, so you can't do something like "we only need 200k mappers to get the world done".
      • Openstreetmap has come a LOOOONGGG way in the short time since its inception..

        One of the best things about the project is the user control of the data. Upload a GPS tracklog of the area you deem deficient.

        They recently gained access to a main source of GPS data (can't remember exactly who/where - maybe it's in the KDE4/Marble video? [] @ 1:11:00)

        This thing is poised to take off.
    • Re:open street map? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jim_Maryland ( 718224 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:46AM (#22558050)
      Open Street Map is a good start but needs some enhancements to allow for proper data attribution and segregation of the different feature types (point, line, polygon) into "layers". Being able to distinguish a bike path from a highway is significant. A community based approach to data reviews would also be nice (i.e. if a user always enters bad data, other users could moderate them so that their input doesn't have the same "value" that a good contributor does).
      • Re:open street map? (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:12AM (#22558306) Journal

        Being able to distinguish a bike path from a highway is significant
        Are you looking at the same OpenStreetMap as me? I just looked up the area around my house on OSM and Google Maps. OSM has more accurate mapping of the extents of the park (Google Maps is just plain wrong here). It also shows footpaths through the park (as dotted lines - Google doesn't show them at all) and indicates the different road types correctly (Google uses nonstandard colouring for roads) and shows roads inside the university campus, where Google just shows a grey blob. OSM also shows the hospitals and carparks correctly (sadly not the pubs). When it comes to road names, both have some that the other lacks (neither has complete coverage, but both have all of the major ones).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

          OSM also shows the hospitals and carparks correctly (sadly not the pubs).
          Correction: If I zoom in more, OSM also has pubs (and churches) labelled correctly, and gains the road labels that were missing (Google doesn't).
        • I managed to get back into my OSM account but due to the server being hit heavily, I haven't been able to re-evaluate the site by using the Potlatch interface for edits. I'll try back later to see if they've made some improvements since I last looked at the site. Maybe you can provide some info on the more recent version.

          Do they allow you to enter: speed limit, turn restrictions, divided highway (important when figuring out left turns on a major road), address range, class of road (primary, secondary,
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Have you actually looked into OSM? It's data attribution scheme is significantly more flexible than 'regular' GIS. It is not only able to distinguish between a bike path and a highway but also able to specify that the bike path is private, goes uphill, that horses are allowed and that the pub halfway is closed on sunday.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Have you actually looked into OSM? It's data attribution scheme is significantly more flexible than 'regular' GIS. It is not only able to distinguish between a bike path and a highway but also able to specify that the bike path is private, goes uphill, that horses are allowed and that the pub halfway is closed on sunday.

          That doesn't even make sense. GIS [] doesn't define any data structures (excepting in the general sense that spatial data is involved somewhere). There are some standard and common structure

      • You can already distinguish between the different way types. Such as bicycle path, tramway, footpath, highway, etc. The different layers are also available, and have already been implemented by other sites. One notable bicycle orientated site being the GravityStorm [] cyclemap.
      • They're called tags (Score:3, Informative)

        by TobascoKid ( 82629 )
        OSM already has those features - they're called tags (not layers) []
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Bike paths? We go one better - we can make dedicated cycle maps based on OpenStreetMap data since we can put anything we like in the database, and render our own tiles using any cartography we can think of. See for example [] - zoom in on London to have a look at cycle networks, bike shops, contours and all manner of customisations for cyclists.

        There's so much more potential to OpenStreetMap than just what's on the front page of the website.
    • I've just looked at that for my area and it is quite impressive but there is obviously an awful lot more work to do, one entire quarter of my city is just missing and according to openstreet map the park next to my house isn't there and there is a big road going through it which simply doesn't exist.

      On that basis, having looked for under a min and seen several huge glaring errors I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable using this map for any navigation.
      • Yea, it's surprisingly complete, but woefully inadequate. Near me, the facility I work in (controlled access roads with gates) is shown, along with all of our parking lot access roads. Not that you can get to them. humorously, the road through the local dump is also shown, even though it is also controlled access... and the local shopping center is shown with only one entrance, when there are actually 3 different entrances. Very strange.
    • I would wait a couple of days before taking a look!
  • Frustrating (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrxak ( 727974 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:40AM (#22557964)
    It can definitely be frustrating. There's a street near my house where I grew up that is complete on every online map I've ever seen, but the truth is it's actually two dead ends that don't meet up. I've seen other mistakes as well. Unfortunately the same bad data keeps getting recycled everywhere, because companies are too lazy to verify things. I'm all for an open source mapping project, or at the very least better ways of reporting errors.
    • Re:Frustrating (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kagura ( 843695 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:53AM (#22558132)
      Unfortunately the same bad data keeps getting recycled everywhere, because companies are too lazy to verify things.

      I think you are underestimating just how many roads there are in the US.

      Source: National Highway System (United States) []
      The National Highway System (NHS) of the United States comprises approximately 160,000 miles (256,000 kilometers) of roadway, including the Interstate Highway System as well as other roads, which are important to the nation's economy, defense, and mobility.

      Further down in the same article:
      The 160,000 miles of NHS include only 4% of the nation's roads, but they carry more than 40% of all highway traffic, 75% of heavy truck traffic, and 90% of tourist traffic.

      That's a lot of roads. Stupid lazy companies... :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rdawson ( 848370 )
        I had cartography friend tell me that often map errors were introduced intentionally as a form of copyright. A mapmaker inserts a bogus item, street, landmark etc. into the map as a watermark to detect copies of his work.
      • Re:Frustrating (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @02:58PM (#22561856)
        I thought about that for a while when I read about some mapping company being sold for a few billion dollars.

        The USA has a total of about four million miles of road. How would you go about mapping it all, and at what cost? Take a car, a driver and a passenger, the passenger having a notebook with GPS. And the notebook needs some pretty clever software. As the driver drives along, the passenger keeps track of everything that is going on - his job is to type in the name of the road, suitability for what kind of traffic, obstacles, and where you can turn. You'd probably want a separate input device for special functions, like road to the left, road to the right, or for "missed something" (the driver probably can't just stop anytime). So the software keeps building up a database, keeps track of things that are missing (if you typed in "there is a left turn here" then you'll have to follow that turn at some time).

        With all overhead, you should be able to build a road map at about 10 miles per hour (less in New York, but more on country roads that stretch for miles). That is 400,000 hours. Lets say you can do 2000 hours a year, that is 200 cars driving around for a year. 400 people doing the work. If the job pays $60,000 a year, that is $24,000,000 in wages. You'd drive a total of say 12 million miles; at 100,000 miles per car that is 120 cars destroyed. Say $20,000 per car, that is $6 mil. $30 million, double it for everything I forgot, that is about $60 million to get complete road maps of the USA from scratch.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by westlake ( 615356 )
          double it for everything I forgot

          Here a few examples I could show you in a fifteen minute drive:

          seasonal roads

          privately maintained farm roads, service roads, gated communities, government reservations and the like. which share nothing in common but distrust of strangers.

          long-obscured, missing or unreadable road signs

          names too long for the standard-length sign. abbreviations that are more misleading than helpful

          names the locals never use themselves

          --- the outer ring of development known since 1934 as

    • There's a street near my house where I grew up that is complete on every online map I've ever seen, but the truth is it's actually two dead ends that don't meet up.

      Same here. The problem is that the bad mapping is on the real official map straight from the city courthouse -- I looked last time I was in there. The only way Google/MapQuest/etc. would even know about it would be to drive the streets and make their own unofficial correction.

    • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:05AM (#22558242)
      I've reported errors to several map makers, including Google maps and the makers of the maps in our phone directory. They all have ways to report errors. If each one of grabs a map right now and reports just one error, just think how much better the maps will be next year...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kylegordon ( 159137 )
        I reported a glaring error in Google Maps to Google about 2 years ago, relating to the name of a major A road. The error is still present, so your theory immediately falls apart.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by skiingyac ( 262641 )
      There are at least people working on the problem, if its any consolation. When I interned at PennDOT, there were a couple guys with huge monitors (like 50"), and ALL they did ALL DAY LONG was look at satellite photos overlaid with the current GPS-based street drawings, and any place the two didn't match up, they moved the street to match the photos. They do this just as a service to us citizens and most maps you can buy directly in some format (probably not one you can use on your GPS device) or are free.
  • by caluml ( 551744 ) <> on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:42AM (#22557994) Homepage

    From my own experience, every electronic map I've ever seen (Google, Mapquest, my Mio GPS) has the layout of my neighborhood completely and frustratingly wrong.
    So why not move to somewhere with exquisitely accurate and detailed mapping? I hear that the nuclear reactors in Pyongyang and Iran have been mapped out quite well.
    • So why not move to somewhere with exquisitely accurate and detailed mapping? I hear that the nuclear reactors in Pyongyang and Iran have been mapped out quite well.

      That is one possibility. The other is to move to the middle of nowhere, where there aren't any roads - at least that way you can't complain your road is a meter off.
    • Insurance rates there must be almost as high as New York!
  • for Argentina... (Score:3, Informative)

    by hjf ( 703092 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:42AM (#22557998) Homepage
    For Argentina, there is
  • by Exp315 ( 851386 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:44AM (#22558022)
    The only two suppliers of nav map data in North America are Navteq and TeleAtlas. They have both invested huge amounts of money in creating their maps, including driving around cities doing street-by-street mapping with vans, although most of their data came originally from official public street maps. Both companies have been the target of multi-billion dollar take over offers in the last year. In addition to capturing the map data, tagging (street names, one-way, turn restrictions, road type etc.) and validation (making sure streets link up correctly in the database) are also huge jobs. I wouldn't want to say that an open-source effort is not possible, but we shouldn't underestimate the magnitude of the job. It involves a lot more effort than just driving around a few streets in your neighborhood.
    • by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <> on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:01AM (#22558202) Homepage Journal
      I work at a GIS company.
      Keep in mind that there's USGS [], and that's not the only source of public maps (though that particular source isn't really focused on making navigation easier).

      Most states are now working on providing a unified system for people to put their map info into (currently the best source of maps is counties and property appraisers - both of which can easily be mandated to upload their data if it doesn't cost them much).

      So give it time. In the US this will become something provided as a government service, and the only people selling things will be the ones writing software that analyzes the data.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Building a community based dataset may have some benefits but it also has many problems. The benefit is that it will be an open source of data and anyone can provide updates to the data. The downsides are: - enforcement of attribute: either people must be forced to enter certain attributes to ensure consistency in the data (which will cause some to not participate in collection). Without this, the data can not be used for more complex usage (geocoding being a primary problem for typical web usage) - acc
    • but we shouldn't underestimate the magnitude of the job.

      This simply cannot be repeated enough. There are millions of miles of roads in this country - of all different types.

      It's not as simple as driving around with your GPSr is 'track' mode, as mapmakers also have to deal with converting between datums, etc...

      Not to mention that your average GPSr is not all that accurate. At our local Geocaching gatherings we regularly have 'coordinate hunts', where a surveyor grade GPSr is used to locate

    • by giminy ( 94188 )
      The only major operating systems companies are Microsoft, Sun, and Apple. They have both invested huge amounts of money in creating their products, including developing design documents, rigorous testing, and bugfixing, although most of their core code came from purchases of pre-existing operating systems. I wouldn't want to say that an open-source effort is not possible, but we shouldn't underestimate the magnitude of the job. It involves a lot more effort than just hacking away at some code until it st
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The only two suppliers of nav map data in North America are Navteq and TeleAtlas...

      It looks like Massachusetts gives this data away for free []. I found that page as a reference from a Wikipedia article about some state route in Massachusetts. The data looks to be very detailed, the dataset is around 100MB. Heck, just read the Road Inventory Data Dictionary [] to get an idea of what they record. And yes, I know it's in an Access database, but it wouldn't be that hard to translate into whatever format one would

  • Should the government subsidize a project to create open, free, up-to-date electronic maps?

    You think adding the Government would help improve mapping products? I'll keep my tax dollars, thanks.
    • by fistfullast33l ( 819270 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:52AM (#22558122) Homepage Journal
      You think adding the Government would help improve mapping products? I'll keep my tax dollars, thanks.

      I would point out that Government funding is the reason that you are able to A) connect to thousands of computers/websites across the globe right now, and B) the reason that you even have a "computer" sitting on your desk. Ironically, this funding is also the reason that satillites in space can provide us with overhead images that you see in Google Maps and the like as well.
  • Odd routing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Scratch-O-Matic ( 245992 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:47AM (#22558064)
    I had an experience recently where I was driving through an unfamiliar town the next state over, following my Garmin. It took me on a route that, while leading eventually to the right place, did not seem to make much sense given the other roads available. I noticed a camper in the lane next to me that didn't seem to belong, and that driver also had a GPS navigator mounted on his windshield. So I found myself wondering: does he have the same unit (or data source) as me? If I did a study of all the non-local cars driving down this road, how many of them would have the same unit in their cars?

    There are several interesting implications, the most obvious being "sponsored routing" down a particular street in a business dist.....gotta go, I'm on the phone with my patent attorney.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zerbey ( 15536 ) *
      You may be right, bear in mind that this is a computer trying to set up the best route it can from a complex set of algorithms. My GPS wants me to turn on a certain street on the way home. It makes sense, it's a main road and will take me right to my street. What my GPS does not know is that the intersection it wants me to turn on is a) VERY dangerous and b) the busiest intersection in my city so I would be stuck there for 10 minutes.

      The next left will add 0.3 of a mile and an extra turn to my journey bu
  • by whm ( 67844 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:47AM (#22558066)
    The government already creates these maps (TIGER []), which are in the public domain. But I'll admit, it's a little fun to pretend that Google/MapQuest/Yahoo and whoever else are driving around all of the Western world with GPSs attached to their cars :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Azure Khan ( 201396 )
      *cough*google maps street view*cough**cough*
    • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:04AM (#22558228) Homepage
      Yes, and TIGER is put together by the USGS, and it already *is* the "open source" data that the geniuses here are talking about. If you find an error, alert the USGS. I've done it myself - call their number and ask.

      Now, as for the fantasy of people driving around with a gps attached to their car (ha ha, isn't that stupid!), um, oh: []

      "NAVTEQ digital map data is built on the roads of the world. Over seven hundred NAVTEQ field researchers from approximately 168 offices drive millions of kilometers of the road network each year. To provide uniformity and maximize precision each team works to a single global specification. And each team has state-of-the-art equipment, including our proprietary GPS-based collection technology and GWS software.

      These field teams are constantly verifying and updating the database, not only in terms of road geometry, but also in details. Each team finds and records up to 260 attributes--everything from addresses and road signs to turn restrictions--for each segment of road. The result is the NAVTEQ difference: digital map data that is precise, robust and multifaceted."

      There's no pretense; Navteq has people driving around, with gps's, verifying speed limits, road conditions, etc. That's why companies like Google and Yahoo buy their data. Before you act like an ass, you might want to do some rudimentary fact-checking...
      • TigerData et al (Score:4, Informative)

        by chelanfarsight ( 835467 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:45AM (#22558726)
        1. I use TigerData as a GIS professional and frankly its often crap. It was a good start for a rushed product in order to launch a project, but I would not now nor would I ever rely on its accuracy without checking it. The TigerData for my area regularly has roads going off the sides of mountains, roads where there have never been roads, etc. Also, the TigerData for my area has not been updated since it was released almost 8 years ago.
        2. As for "driving around" it would depend upon how accurate the device is. The local utility company I work closely with spent 5,000$ just on the handheld to receive subcentimeter readings and about 20,000$ on the base station to accompany it. Your typical yellow DeLorme unit is great for driving around but it is not a data collection unit I would use when building maps. Depending upon satellite coverage for your area (weather, tree cover, geography, the placement of the 3 satellites needed to position accurately) your store bought unit could be as much as 100ft or more off your actual location and rarely closer than 5ft. Again depending upon coverage and the device. Then add the need for regular updates and mapping changes.
        3. An open source mapping project would be great, but it is currently rather expensive to actually collect and process the data needed to build accurate maps. A terrific source of addressing and centerline information is your local E911 Board. At least in my part of the world they do much of the fire district, centerline, and, of course, addressing for mapping.
      • "Before you act like an ass, you might want to do some rudimentary fact-checking"


        Being an ass is soooo much easier, and you can often garner headlines better this way.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by troylanes ( 883822 )
      Roadnav is a fairly good open source turn-by-turn nav solution that uses TIGER data. Check it out: []
  • Tracks4Australia (Score:3, Informative)

    by shogun ( 657 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:48AM (#22558082)
    In Australia there is the Tracks4Australia [] project which uses user contributed GPS track logs to generate rural and remote area trail and road maps, mostly useful for 4WDers etc. They are working on a commercial product now but the basic mapset appears to be staying free.
  • Maemo Mapper! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alizarin Erythrosin ( 457981 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:49AM (#22558084)
    If you use one of the Nokia internet tablets, try Maemo Mapper [].
  • Check out these guys []. They're attempting to map the whole world using data submitted by users (anyone can edit the map). They have by far the most detailed map of where I live and are the only online map I know of to correctly show my street as a dead-end.

    (I see about 5-10 drivers a day drive up our street only to find it's a dead end even though this is clearly shown on the road signs; I guess they trust their SatNavs more than the road signs)

  • Tiger database (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nova1313 ( 630547 )
    Government funded mapping: []

    Format is a bit obscure, but it works rather ok. We were able to use the data to draw road maps and then find paths on them. I'm sure it has it's own problems too but maybe you could contact them and point out the errors.

  • by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:55AM (#22558150) Journal
    The funniest thing about the Garmin is that is will tell you to make illegal U-Turns.
    The story goes like this: My girlfriend got one for Christmas and we where going to test it by going to get grandmothers house. Halfway there my girlfriend went on autopilot, so to speak, because she's done this trip so many times. All the sudden we hear "Make a U-Turn... Recalculating" What the hell? Then we hear it again... The Garmin was telling us to perform illegal U-turns to work on its gps calculations.
    I wonder if that would hold up "But officer. The GPS told me to!"
    • by SoundGuyNoise ( 864550 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:07AM (#22558260) Homepage
      So it might ACTUALLY send you over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's House????
      • So it might ACTUALLY send you over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's House????
        I took a look at how it wanted us to go later on and I'm glad we didn't. It would of taken us over the river and through the HOOD to grandmother house... yo...
    • Story (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chrisq ( 894406 )
      In France I was lead down a country lane that got narrower and narrower and eventually I came to the conclusion that I would not get my standard car through, so I turned round. Now My wife has a terrible sense of direction - or to be fair she is American and navigates by intersections, junctions and so on rather than by landmarks like you have to with the squiggly roads in Europe. (Actually I am as bad in the USA, all the roads and junctions look the same to me and by the time I read an exit sign's road nu
  • The US government already has publicly available (for a fee) map data. This is the Census bureau's TIGER database. The problem is that it isn't entirely accurate or up to date. This is where the private map data companies come in. They all based their data sets off of TIGER but they send people around to correct errors, add new roads, and add metadata for better auto routing. This process isn't easy or cheap. The bureau is also working with the private companies to develop an enhanced TIGER database.
  • Mapshare? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Zerbey ( 15536 ) * on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:00AM (#22558194) Homepage Journal
    My TomTom device has mapshare built in, I'd be astonished if Garmin did not. I've made dozens of map corrections (mostly silly stuff like incorrect street names) and they seem to update the maps often. My neighbourhood has been around for a while so no problems with the street layout here. I believe TomTom use Teradata maps whereas most other GPS systems use a different company.

    I would love to see an open mapping project though.
  • by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:06AM (#22558250)
    You can blame the government mainly your local streets dept for this. I've noticed state and federal highways being much more accurate than local or rural streets. May your deity help you if you live in a town that likes to rename side streets every few months.

    Sure, it would be nice if there was some federal D.O.T. streets db for the entire country that your local streets department could upload all their changes into and all the GPS map folks would just that. I doubt it'll ever be that clean cut or that your local street department will want to even give any other city much less state or federal government department access to updated street info. This is just my personal experience working in a city police department and occasionally trying to get this information from the city entities that physically make and should be tracking these things.

    The more that I see that its difficult or impossible for intercity departments to communicate I tend to think that the only real solution is for Pizza companies or UPS/FedEx to partner with Google streets to actually physically map out where their fleets move through.

    If your city has a GIS department, then that should be keeping track of this information.... You could always do a FOIA request for any arcview street centerline data.
    The problem is that most of us have problems getting that "updated" arcview street centerline data into our lowest price GPS device.

    • Sure, it would be nice if there was some federal D.O.T. streets db for the entire country that your local streets department could upload all their changes into and all the GPS map folks would just that.

      There already is []. The problem is that mapmaking is much, much more difficult than many here at Slashdot seem to think.

      (Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, I have made maps. Both as part of a professional work and at an amateur level. I've been a cartography geek for around thirty years.)

  • by killthebunny ( 755776 ) * on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:06AM (#22558252) Homepage
    We have been collecting GPS positions at 10 second intervals since we began operations in London in 2004 (we're a courier company with a technology twist). We have collected 173 million positions on a 24/7 basis (growing by about 1 million per day) across our bicycle, motorbike, and van fleet. We have been donating to OpenStreetMap for years and have released our data for noncommercial use via a public API [] under a CC license. Have fun!
    • by BLKMGK ( 34057 )
      Wow! Now THAT is impressive - kudos to your company for having that sort of forward thinking and for helping out the community. Now we just need a zillion more of them to cover the rest of the planet ;-)
  • Keeping the roads database up-to-date is a tremendously complicated task. First, you have to have timely updates from the people who make changes (governments, construction companies, etc.). Second, as with any database, the results are only as good as the data you enter. Do you really expect data input by millions of people (many who have no idea how important accurate data is) to be that good? The users of that data also have to agree on what should be stored, what it means, and how to use it (at leas
  • by halfabee ( 685633 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:12AM (#22558310) Homepage

    Please forgive the slightly off-topic post...

    Two of the biggest map data providers are Navteq [] and TeleAtlas []. Each company has a section on their website where you can report errors in their maps.

    Since they will need to review your submission and mapping sites like Google Maps and Mapquest only update their map data a couple times a year, it will be a while before your correction goes public (if ever).

  • There is an army of mappers available - namely the device users. Given that all the devices that are deployed can be synced to the internet for POI/map adjustment and generally have megs of flash storage available, it wouldnt be too hard to store notes on routes experienced and deviations from the known map if the user agrees to it. Suddenly you have hundreds of thousands of mappers. TomTom have already started to do something along these lines with their MapShare technology [] but IMHO it's a bit of a rubbish
    • by pev ( 2186 )
      As a further note - no-one ever mentions the possibilities for more accurate route-planning if routes driven sent feedback on predicted time, time taken, day and time of travel etc. You could make INCREDIBLY accurate traffic models from this kind of feedback.
  • As a kid, every map I saw showed this cross-street running between two streets. I never saw that street. Months and months of searching, never found it. Turned out that the mapmakers had all used a city powerlines map to reference where the streets were, and yes, there was a small run of powerlines through a wooded section between these two streets.
  • by MadMidnightBomber ( 894759 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:23AM (#22558440)
  • I dunno if it's GPS who does that, but I live on a small, narrow, winding street right off a major street, right before a tunnel. About once a month, a big truck gets stuck on my street, obviously turning there after panicking before the tunnel (right above the tunnel is a minor industrial street on which it's not obvious how to get from the major street). They usually take 40-45 minutes to back-up all the way to the big street... Record was 2 hours for a 2-trailer rig, some years ago...
  • Prior art (Score:4, Informative)

    by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:32AM (#22558556)
    Should the government subsidize a project to create open, free, up-to-date electronic maps? Surely there is a public benefit available from such a project."

    This is a great idea. We could have some federal government institution which deals with lots of maps anyway take the initiative and create digitized map data for the whole country, using information from USGS quads. For "fact checking", they could mail out the map data to every municipality in the country, who would make corrections which would be incorporated into the system. The data would be publicly available from the government for free, to be used by open-source or commercial makers of maps and map tools.

    Congrats! You've just re-invented TIGER, run by the U.S. Census Bureau. If you use map software, it probably uses TIGER data. If the data in your town is inaccurate, it's because your local government sucks.

  • by bfwebster ( 90513 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:35AM (#22558604) Homepage
    I'm amused at the thought of trying to create an open-source version of a typical North American commercial GPS street/address database and navigation program. I've used a GPS system in my car for about 3 years now, and while I encounter the occasional error or omission, most of the time I marvel that it works at all, much less as well as it does. As someone who has worked on some very large scale software projects, I have to say that the software quality assurance (SQA) challenges and issues for both the database itself and generating navigation routes from Point A to Point B are enough to give me the heebie jeebies -- particularly given the IT industry's general track record on SQA practices.

    Here's a reality check. Pick any one-square-mile area of your community and attempt to create (and keep up to date) a GPS navigation system that will legally, safely, and efficiently navigate you between any two addresses within that square mile, keeping in mind your civil liabilities should your system cause accidents, injuries, or illegal driving maneuvers. Oh, and your navigation system has to fit in a device that's about the same size as a Palm Pilot or an iPod touch and that runs on rechargeable batteries.

    Now scale this up by about 3.5 million to cover the United States. ..bruce..

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by babbling ( 952366 )
      Hi ..bruce..,

      Do you consider the software or the database to be unfeasible? You talk about scaling things up, but there's very few reasons why software that works in one neighbourhood would fail in another except for deficiencies in the data.

      The idea behind projects such as OpenStreetMap [] is to build the data, using contributors who are local to the area that they are mapping. I think OpenStreetMap is only beginning to pick up pace, and it is already getting quite good considering that it has been quite a lo
  • by esocid ( 946821 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:37AM (#22558616) Journal
    I worked as a surveyor for a private engineering firm a few years back and it isn't a simple task just to collect data and upload it. This applies for GPS data as well that you have to upload into GIS, or the like, software and manipulate it with any data-correction and overlays to aerial or satellite photography. Trust me, I spent hours cleaning up collection points and trying to get it to match up with the overlays with GPS data for invasive species management plans for a national park I worked at using ArcGIS (which is absolutely terrible to work with in comparison to ArcView). The surveying part usually requires some sort of CAD to properly map out what information you have collected during surveying and in-the-field math to figure out what goes where. It's not as simple as you think it might be.
  • Bwahahaha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:47AM (#22558748) Homepage

    The electronic maps don't show a gate that separates residential and industrial areas. It's only opened for a couple hours on weekdays in the northern New Jersey city.

    Mayor Dennis Elwell says residents on Fifth Street started complaining about trucks clogging their street about a year ago as GPS devices increased in popularity. Some drivers have to call police to open the gate because their trucks are too big to turn around.
    It looks like they made a gate to shield some gentrified neighborhood from the contact with lower classes, and ended up with a street full of trucks. Solution: open the fucking gate, you stupid yuppies!
  • by Frugatti ( 1246544 ) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @12:10PM (#22559138)
    Of course your map is wrong; you don't live on an Interstate. A few points to make on the digital mapping companies responsible for all the maps, update cycles and TIGER. And some bias, I was a former employee of one of the digital mapping companies. In the US (And globally) There are two companies that are responsible for all the digital maps Tele Atlas (Owned by TomTom) and Navteq (Owned by Nokia). If you look at any GPS device or online map site you will see a copyright from one or both companies. Their business is driven by getting people from point A to Point B the fastest i.e. by routing you to nearest highway and having you drive on it for the longest amount of time possible. The main focus is the US highway system: Interstates, US Highways, State Highways, Regional, County and Municipal Routes and the major metropolitan areas. If you don't live in the metro areas there is very little business need for correcting the errors in your locality. Why fix the streets in Stowe, VT (pop 6,000) when many more people will be served if the streets and addresses were updated in Cary, NC (pop 130,000 metro area of Raleigh, NC)? Each company works on a quarterly update cycle where a new version of their mapping database is available for purchase every 90 days or so. Some customers get the quarterly updates some get annual updates. The GPS units and online mapping sites are only as good as the currency of their maps. Make sure you update you maps every time an update comes out. There is always construction and changes in the road system and old maps will not reflect the newer changes. Just because Google Maps says the copyright is 2008 doesn't mean the map has been updated recently. I know when I was working for the mapping company we were working on a huge project for a car company that would be taking the mapping database produced in Fall 06 and using it for the navigation systems in their 2008 cars. If you do have a specific problem go right to the source to get it fixed Navteq map reporter or Tele Atlas Map Insight. The US Gov't does have a free nationwide map you can use TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) Produced by the Census Bureau. When was the last Census done? 8 years ago? Yea that gives you an idea of how accurate the TIGER map is. TIGER was made for government applications showing very accurate municipal boundaries and topology of streets. To get an open source Map project going you will need a good sized server, Volunteers in just about every municipality, good database software that can hold every thing you ever wanted to know about streets (name, address, one way, truck and vehicle restrictions, routing info, Points of Interest, zip code, real time traffic data, gated communities, municipal boundaries, state locality, ect...) a great set of possionally accurate aerially imagery (preferable 10m acct or less) for alignment of streets, and did I mention a large army of helpers in every municipality. Just make sure you get the newest maps updates for your navigation device and go directly to the source for map fixes: Navteq map reporter or Tele Atlas Map Insight.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by theskipper ( 461997 )
      The US Gov't does have a free nationwide map you can use TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) Produced by the Census Bureau. When was the last Census done? 8 years ago? Yea that gives you an idea of how accurate the TIGER map is.

      In 2002 the Census Bureau contracted Harris to update the centerlines and attributes nationwide. Approximately 1200 of 3200 counties in the US have been completed with another 300 or so due in March. Details on the "MAF/TIGER Accuracy Improvement Pr

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