looks like Google is also ditching Tele Atlas as its data provider for Google Maps in the US in favor of a do-it-yourself approach. Google had been using data from Tele Atlas' maps since September 2008 after moving away from Navteq's data after Navteq was acquired by Nokia. Now, Google will use its own data, which it will supplement with data from government sources and a crowdsourcing approach.After a flurry of activity around Google Maps over the last few weeks, it now
Thanks to its Street View cars, Google already has a pretty dataset for even some of the more obscure locations in the United States, and the company has also recently expanded its efforts to launch more Street View data in other parts of the world.
Last week's update to Google Maps introduced new ways to report errors for Google Maps users, so Google is clearly thinking about using a crowdsourcing approach to mapping for Google Maps. Google also announced that it now includes data from a number of US government organizations like the Forest Service and the US Geological Survey in its maps.
In the US, the Census Bureau creates a fairly accurate base map, and this data is available freely and represents the core data set for the OpenStreetMap project. With Map Maker, Google also offers an easy-to-use mapping product that even non-geographers can use to create and edit maps and which Google has already employed to let its users create maps for countries where no accurate maps existed until now.
While the new maps that were launched last week also include new errors, the overall detail of the maps has clearly increased and now even includes data for the boundaries of land parcels in some municipalities.
The question, of course, is why Google plans to make its own maps now. For one, chances are that Google is currently paying Tele Atlas a lot of money for using its maps. Mapping services are notoriously protective of how their data can be used, which is one of the reasons Apple can't offer turn-by-turn directions in the built-in mapping application on the iPhone, for example. Google probably wants to be free to do whatever it wants with its maps without having to worry about licensing issues.
By providing its own maps and an API for others to use these maps, Google could potentially become a major competitor to Tele Atlas and Navteq now, and if Google continues to make these maps easily available to developers without cumbersome licensing restrictions, it could bring radical change to the mapping business.