Spotted in the wild: Apple Maps car | And how will that be a differentiator?

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

In late June 2018, I was driving through North liberty, Iowa, and I saw an Apple Maps car.

Think Google Maps car-as pictured below in Cedar Rapids in 2012-except not quite as colorful and actually very subtle:

I wasn’t able to take a picture as I was driving but the Apple car was all white with very subtle markings and cameras on top. The cameras however were not as big as the Google car from six years ago.

Of course, the cameras take 3-D pictures of the landscape that we can then view on the web when looking at locations.

It’s kind of neat to do and I’ve used it for actual business reasons before but for the most part it doesn’t help you find your directions to a place, the load times can be slow and you really can’t look at it while you’re driving.

So I’m curious what’s on Apple’s mind here or if they are just in it to re-create what Google Maps already has.

First off though, I was wondering what the Apple Maps app even looks like. I totally did not recognize that I was using the iPhone map app when I was driving to North Liberty. Is that bad branding or just fantastic integration?

I like the app particularly because it syncs to my Apple Watch and makes it vibrate when I have to turn.

But back to what is the point of adding 3-D pictures into another app?

If it’s just a case of copying what a competitor already does is there really value to that? With that in mind, I can’t even remember the last time I actually used the 3-D function on Google.

Maybe Apple has other ideas and will evolve how we can use the 3-D scenery of non-local places.

If they’re just copying a function, it’s hard for me to see a point. At the very least it’s presumably creating jobs for people to drive around the cars for a few hours.

The other thing that crossed my mind is why don’t they put the cameras on top of people driving for Uber and Lyft? I have no idea of course if that’s more cost efficient or would even work but certainly those rideshare drivers do put a lot of miles on the road and it might be an easy way to get streets that typically wouldn’t be on the top of the list.

Apple says on its website that “Apple is driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates.

We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data. For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication.”

Of course saying that something will be used to improve something else is a relatively vague statement and could include a lot of different things.

So for the time being let’s hope that it’s an improvement in addition to Google Maps and not just the same exact function.