There have been a number of interesting Blog posts of late from the geo crowd that point to errors in Google Maps (see Peter Batty, James Fee and Maitri Erwin). The mistakes that these observant industry watchdogs point out are a missing road, a lake where it doesn’t exist, and a mislabeled town respectively. These aren’t minor mapping errors, they’re egregious mistakes that strip Google Maps of its trusted source status.
Google has made the move away from the trusted geospatial data provider TeleAtlas to their own data with a process for user feedback for updates that are supposed to happen within 30 days. Perhaps they bit off more than they can handle on this dramatic move as there is a lag between updates and quite a few really large problems with the new dataset.
This stumble helps to draw attention to the fact that keeping a map up to date isn’t a simple problem. The amount of change taking place globally makes the update process an exponential exercise. The considerable investments that TeleAtlas and NAVTEQ have made in their data over the years have given rise to the success of online mapping applications and in-car navigation. The quality of their data has been key to broad adoption.
Has Google Maps succeeded because of the interface or because of the map data? It’s probably a little of both, but losing its trusted source status may mean that fewer people navigate to this site as the first source for maps. And the missteps are helpful to the entire geo crowd because they point to the importance of quality, consistency and currency of the underlying map data.