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Open US GPS Data?

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the directions-want-to-be-free dept.

Software 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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327 comments

TomTom MapShare (1, Informative)

autophile (640621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22557936)

Try TomTom MapShare [clubtomtom.com].

Re:TomTom MapShare (5, Informative)

Laughing Pigeon (1166013) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:TomTom MapShare (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558372)

No, no, not so-so, TomTom!

Re:TomTom MapShare (4, Interesting)

Creepy (93888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558516)

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 [gizmodo.com] 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.

Note that Mapmakers make intentional mistakes... (3, Interesting)

PatSand (642139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558560)

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 appears to go from their development right into the next one. Unfortunately, there is a gap of about 100 feet where there is no road but rather a swampy stream. And it gets better... When they were laying sewer lines, they put in in this swampy stream so that if somebody wants to extend the road they will have to build a bridge over the stream. So this would involve (and has involved) the state, county, and sewer authority determining how much each should pay.

You can guess how far this has gotten...I'm expecting it may happen when my (as yet unborn) great grandchildren reach 21 years of age...

Of course, this was the source of a lot of fun during the summer when growing up...my brother and I would sit out on the front lawn in the twilight/evening/night and watch the cars come zooming down to take the "short-cut" and then have to slam on their brakes and then back up and wander around aimlessly. Nobody ever crashed into the swamp, but one person almost hit the barrier at the end of the street.

Yes, I did call the map people (ADC) and report it several times over a decade. It's still that way in the latest edition, and I've seen the same mistake in an in-dash GPS display for the location in one car.

Guess it's now "Driver Beware"...

Google allows you to submit corrections (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22557938)

Which in the future they can sell!

open street map? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22557956)

Re:open street map? (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558016)

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.

Re:open street map? (1)

mrboyd (1211932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558284)

I just looked at the page explaining how to contribute and I am perplex.
I have a garmin GPS with the maps for my area. I could help that project by uploading my route tracks but what if I use mapsource (garmin software) to look up the road name am I infringing on something? - I would think you can't copyright street name. But if not, then I would be allowed to just batch upload the whole Garmin data and give a tremendous boost to that project. Surely that can't be allowed and would probably be a cause for legal issue for the project.
Anyway, great project, I hope some people have the courage to contribute the way they suggest: roaming around with a GPS on and writing the street name on a piece of paper (ouch).

No? There are commercial applications... (5, Informative)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558342)

I disagree. OSM is very useful in many areas, including where it is hard to find maps (try Baghdad [openstreetmap.org] for example). With the recent addition of TIGER data [slashgeo.org] 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 [slashgeo.org] (Isle of Wight - October 2006). See also this related wrap-up entry [slashgeo.org].

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 [slashgeo.org].

Re:No? There are commercial applications... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558542)

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".

Re:open street map? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558390)

The same could be said about wikipedia when it was OSM's age.

Re:open street map? (3, Interesting)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 6 years ago | (#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? (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558306)

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:open street map? (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558338)

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).

Re:open street map? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558394)

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:open street map? (1)

kylegordon (159137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558464)

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 [gravitystorm.co.uk] cyclemap.

Re:open street map? (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558212)

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.

Re:open street map? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558308)

Point is, in OpenStreetMap you *can* fix errors.
If you are referring to USA data it's a direct import from the TIGER data set, which does need cleanup. Europe is much better (where there is coverage, but that's just a matter of time, really.)

Re:open street map? (1)

tppublic (899574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558344)

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.

Re:open street map? (4, Insightful)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558536)

So fix it. You're obviously a geek since you read slashdot. You obviously have a lot of spare time, since you read slashdot. You also know about the errors and how it's supposed to be. Give an hour of your time to the project. The more complete it is, the more people will fix the details.

Currently slashdotted - but it was never very fast (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558478)

I would wait a couple of days before taking a look!

Frustrating (4, Interesting)

mrxak (727974) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Yep (2)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558030)

Every mapping system, from Google maps, to in-car GPS navigators, gets my apartment complex wrong. It shows up as being about a mile down the road from where it really is, and in a different city. So also, entering my zip code and/or address will list me as being within a different municipal boundary from where I really am.

What gives?

Re:Frustrating (5, Informative)

Kagura (843695) | more than 6 years ago | (#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) [wikipedia.org]
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:Frustrating (3, Informative)

rdawson (848370) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558620)

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 (1)

ciggieposeur (715798) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558214)

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.

So do something about it... (4, Interesting)

bunratty (545641) | more than 6 years ago | (#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...

Didn't look very hard (0, Redundant)

enjahova (812395) | more than 6 years ago | (#22557968)

OpenStreetMap [openstreetmap.org] is pretty good, and getting better.

Re:Didn't look very hard (2, Informative)

juanfe (466699) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558028)

Open Street Map [openstreetmap.org] has a good and growing base of data for the US. Plus they link in to open source or freeware applications that you can load on PDAs, GPS-enabled cell phones, laptops, etc to begin creating traces that can then be turned into map data.

Combine that with Open Source GIS software [opensourcegis.org] to query the data source and you're in business.

For this to work, you have to have a huge pool of people willing to drive a lot. Even the big map players (NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas) have problems keeping data up to speed, and they have an army of people driving around double-checking existing street grids.

OpenStreetMap (0, Redundant)

Sacro (1138603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22557974)

What about OpenStreetMap [openstreetmap.org]? Some areas are done quite well, especially in the UK, by the looks of things, US mapping is going well too.

OpenStreetMap (0, Redundant)

mmurphy000 (556983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22557992)

OpenStreetMap [openstreetmap.org] is building a, well, open street map. My town in eastern Pennsylvania seems pretty up-to-date as far as I can tell. And they're working on aerials [linux.com] too.

To the submitter: (4, Funny)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#22557994)

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.

Re:To the submitter: (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558334)

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.

That's a pretty big job (5, Insightful)

Exp315 (851386) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:That's a pretty big job (4, Informative)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558202)

I work at a GIS company.
Keep in mind that there's USGS [usgs.gov], 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:That's a pretty big job (2, Insightful)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558218)

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) - accuracy of entered information. Misspelling names, wrong type (Road, Street, Highway, Court, etc...), address range (do you consider it as a "hundred block" or just list the actual house range, i.e. 401 - 438 vs. 401-499), do you consider addressing the sides of the street (left range 401-499 and right 402-498, or if a "T" exist, do you break the one side at the "50" mark or whatever the physical addresses are?) - positional accuracy. Not all collection devices will be equally calibrated. - collection focus. Will data in more rural areas be collected as often as city blocks? These are just some of the issues that come to mind when I think of building a road dataset. I've worked with development of enhanced 911 datasets for counties in the past. These have also used for other departments like the school board (school bus routing), public works (trash collection, snow removal, etc..), emergency services (response districts for police, ems, fire), and other uses. What would really jump start a project like OSM would be the donation of a dataset from a company like NavTeq or some open source group that can negotiate with the local government agencies to provide open access to the centerline data the agencies already have.

Re:That's a pretty big job (1)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558238)

DOH....forgot about the <br> tags to break up the lines. Guess the preview button should have been used.

Re:That's a pretty big job (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558490)

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 located a set of coordinates - then cachers are given those coordinates and try to 'pin the the tail on the donkey' and place a flag at those coordinates using their own GPSr. Here is a bunch of people, many with high end consumer GPSr's and experience in using them... and the average CEP is around 5 yards. (Your common road navigation GPSr isn't nearly as accurate as my handheld.) Sometimes, if there are too many people, we run the hunt in two or more groups - and as the day wears on, you can see the center of the pattern shift as the satellites move.

Re:That's a pretty big job (1)

giminy (94188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558506)

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 starts working.

(Sorry, I think your opinion is valid, but I couldn't help myself :)).

Government involvement (1)

the computer guy nex (916959) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558054)

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.

Re:Government involvement (3, Insightful)

fistfullast33l (819270) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558122)

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.

Re:Government involvement (1)

Nova1313 (630547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558140)

they do this already it's called tiger and it's provided by the census bureau.

Re:Government involvement (1)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558274)

TIGER data generally has good attributes but lacks the positional and representation accuracy that most people would like. The specification for the data was developed when disk space was still at a premium so geographic features were simplified. For example, a curving road would be represented by a single 2 point line. The attributes would be correct (generally), but the line is over simplified (i.e. won't overlay well on an satellite/aerial photo well).

slow to update too (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558056)

The current solutions are slow to update as well. I the road I live on now has been here for 7 years, yet it's a field with no streets according to google, map quest, yahoo, etc. People can't search for my address on those sites as it doesn't exist on there.

Re:slow to update too (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558318)

When I've written to the map companies with corrections, they usually update their maps within the year. Have you requested that your street be added? Of course, you shouldn't have to do that, but you may as well seeing as how they're not picking up your street.

Odd routing (3, Interesting)

Scratch-O-Matic (245992) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Odd routing (2, Interesting)

Zerbey (15536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558258)

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 but saves me dealing with that horrible intersection and is actually faster.

What I would love to see in GPS's and none of them have this feature is the ability to upload "local shortcuts", eg roads the locals know about that get you where you need to go faster but are not obvious to visitors.

Government Maps - of course (5, Insightful)

whm (67844) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558066)

The government already creates these maps (TIGER [wikipedia.org]), 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 :)

~whm

Re:Government Maps - of course (2, Informative)

Azure Khan (201396) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558160)

*cough*google maps street view*cough**cough*

Re:Government Maps - of course (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558330)

*cough*still useless to a majority of people because its only in 29 cities throughout the entire US*cough*

Re:Government Maps - of course (4, Informative)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558228)

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:

http://www.navteq.com/about/whatis_difference.html [navteq.com]

"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...

1998 Data? (1)

Wanado (908085) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558324)

From the TIGER site:

This mapping engine uses 1998 TIGER/Line® data and 1990 Decennial Census data.
Yikes! I wonder if roads and developments have changed in the last 10 years?

OpenStreet Maps Project (1)

smwny (874786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558076)

You can help the open street maps project (http://www.openstreetmap.org/). They do everything that you were talking about. The only problem with it is that it is not big enough. However if you add your area it would really help the cause.

The Free Market is magic (0, Offtopic)

gruntled (107194) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558078)

The Free Market crazies here in the States believe that nothing can possibly be produced that's better than what the free market can deliver. I'm not kidding; some people here are completely psychotic about it. I'm a big believer in free markets, but anybody with any sense understands the concepts of market failure and sets policy accordingly...

Critical System, Renormalization, Spin Glass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558424)

The free market mines whatever profit opportunities exist out of a system -- like it, hate it, doesn't matter. That's what it does.

When that system includes a feature for declaring "market failure" and acquiring access to a set of special rules, e.g. finance by involuntary tax dollars, the free market keeps right on rolling. Those who can see a way to profit from this feature promote its use. There _are_ no wise selfless and infallible Solons.
--
psychotic systems guy

Tracks4Australia (2, Informative)

shogun (657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558082)

In Australia there is the Tracks4Australia [gpsoz.com.au] 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.

OpenStreetMap.org (1)

IndieKid (1061106) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558104)

Check out these guys [openstreetmap.org]. 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 (2, Interesting)

Nova1313 (630547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558112)

Government funded mapping:


http://www.census.gov/geo/www/tiger/ [census.gov]


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.

It's more the analysis, not the data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558120)

For the most part, you can't get free access to maps. Typically they are copyrighted and sold for profit. This is not to say that maps couldn't be made, and acquiring them similarly to the music databases should be possible. The problems are on the analysis side.

If the GPS receiver isn't moving, the solution it provides should be doing a random walk in the vicinity. If you are displaying a map based on some estimate of movement, the map should be undergoing random rotations and slight displacements as well. If we start moving slowly, the random jumps in apparent position are larger than our real change in position (most of the time), and so we have a random walk with drift. This is probably the case with walking, and possibly with bicycling. Travel by car inside city limits probably has the vehicle moving about as much, or a bit more, than the random jumps. Determining direction is a bit easier.

Out on the Great Plains, a plain GPS receiver can get fairly good positioning, but in trees, in the mountains, or in a city with tall buildings and poles, positioning can get bad.

What we would like as far as routing goes, is paths in memory, and logic/programming to decide on which path we are, which direction we are traveling the path, and our position on the path. This isn't straightforward to solve for.

Make a U-Turn (2, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558150)

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!"

Re:Make a U-Turn (5, Funny)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558260)

So it might ACTUALLY send you over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's House????

Re:Make a U-Turn (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558290)

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...

Re:Make a U-Turn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22558484)

My Garmin would say "When possible, make a legal U-turn". So I guess they fixed that bug.

Story (2, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558670)

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 number I have passed it) As I headed back the way I came my GPS was still locked on to the old route and said "make a U-turn when its safe to do so". It did this a couple of times at about 5 minute intervals when my wife said "you could have turned in the gateway there". I pointed out that it wanted to send us back the way we came, and that we had given up on that route. My wife said "I don't know why you brought that thing if you don't even listen to it". This got my teenage daughter and I laughing. Big mistake. Most women dislike being laughed at by husbands and by teenage daughters. Both laughing together is even less popular. My wife is a Texan, and Texan women don't usually keep it to themselves when they are unhappy.... End result, my GPS is at maximum throwing distance in some field in France.

Already exists (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558164)

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? (3, Informative)

Zerbey (15536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558194)

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.

Check your local streets dept. (2, Informative)

kabocox (199019) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Check your local streets dept. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558566)

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 [wikipedia.org]. 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.)

Open Source UK GPS Data (5, Informative)

killthebunny (755776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558252)

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 http://api.ecourier.co.uk/ [ecourier.co.uk] under a CC license. Have fun!

PEBCAC (1)

Shadow_139 (707786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558288)

The issue is Truckers buying GPS systems designed for Car users that do not include details about which road truck are banned on, and the truckers following the GPS directing as if they are the word of god and ignoring the clear road signs standing narrow road or low bridge......

Open source vs user inputs (1)

kaaona (252061) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558302)

GM Nav owners have tales to tell similar to the Garmin trapped truckers. GM's OEM (Denso?) has apparently declined suggestions to open an errata web site portal where users could report errors, new/upgraded roads and bridges, etc. A totally open sourced GPS database would be nice, but one that supported broader inputs from end users with vested interests in correct, up-to-date maps would be better.

Huge database problem (1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558304)

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 least to some degree) to be consistent. How likely is it for various competing companies to agree to the same format and values? Not very.

So we need an international approach to map the world. But of course now we have governments involved, which in itself is a disaster waiting to happen. The US typically will then declare the data a National Security issue -- so much for that idea.

So we need an creative commons approach. Oh, wait, some cracker will want to corrupt the data just for grins so that all the big trucks are routed through Podunk, USA. Back to the same old problem.

The only viable solution would be to have real-time data collection on streets, construction, speeds, addresses, etc., etc., using the soon to be available vehicle-to-vehicle network. Come to think of it, what a surveillance system that would be...the US Government might be interested in this after all...

Fixing errors on mapping sites (3, Informative)

halfabee (685633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558310)

Please forgive the slightly off-topic post...

Two of the biggest map data providers are Navteq [navteq.com] and TeleAtlas [teleatlas.com]. 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).

This is kind of obvious... (1)

pev (2186) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558328)

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 [tomtom.com] but IMHO it's a bit of a rubbish implementation and completely misses the point... Still, it's a start.

Re:This is kind of obvious... (1)

pev (2186) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558356)

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.

My GPS always tells me to try to kill myself ... (1)

Marbleless (640965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558360)

... by avoiding the nice bridge and crossing the river 100 yards upstream where there is a dirt track, no bridge and about 8' of water ;)

I live in an isolated development between a river and a plateau.

War on Maps (0, Troll)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558364)

Only turrurists would have a use for maps, to locate large masses of population to attack. Are you a turrurist? Are you planning to fly a plane into my home? I don't want you havin' no access to no accurate maps.

Sadly, that's precisely the motivation for such a project to NOT exist. We, as a country, have not lost, but the majority, afraid of terrorism to the point of giving up freedoms and rights that just make sense to hold on to, has lost. Sometimes it's hard to be on the winning side.

Swinging back on topic here, I would love to see such a project come into existence. It might just convince me to buy a GPS and contribute something more useful than the drivel I get modded up for on Slashdot.

I remember this one map... (1)

downix (84795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558426)

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.

Tom Tom Map Share -- more detailed (1)

maexio (259664) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558452)

I recently bought a TomTom GO 720, specifically because of this feature. While it is nice, it is a little less 'moderated' than the op's suggestion. There are options to decide which updates to accept, and that is good, but its hard to say how effective it is. Unfortunately, the only updates I feel safe with are the ones near my house, but coincidentally, they're also the ones I don't need :)

What would be nice would be a single 'map data' source so that changes could happen much more rapidly. I myself notice street names, etc that do not match my gps while flying down the highway / interstate, but as I am driving above 100 km / hr and trying to get to a destination, I don't stop to change them.

In my family we actually have 4 brands of GPS running, TomTom, Magellan, Mio / Pioneer, Garmin and all of them have different peculiarities to their mapping. The one thing that is consistent is the maps are definately improving. The Garmin is older, and one time it tried to have me 'take local roads' across the Mississippi! that ended up costing us approximately 3 hrs of travel time we weren't expecting..

To restate my previous point, aggregated map data would be great, then the GPS' would compete more on 'features / benefits / price' than they do currently on map quality / etc. For me, having more control of routing preferences would then be high priority on my list while currently it is map accuracy.

Map Creation Software (1)

superbrose (1030148) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558454)

I personally would like to see an open source version of tomtom's mapshare. But for that it's first of all necessary to have open source software to make it easy to record such data.

It would be great to simply press 'record' and then drive along a new road and upload that road straight away. I'm quite sure it's not that complicated, with something like subversion at the backend.

I know the feeling... (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558486)

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...

The Giuliani excuse... (0, Troll)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558512)

The GPS data is lousy to protect us from terrorism, of course. Some of us may even recall when the GPS data in the US was intentionally only accurate to about a block or so. The statement from the GPS providers was the same then - we didn't want terrorists to have good information on where anything in particular was in our country.

As long as the "global war on terror" is going on, we'll probably continue to see only semi-useful data from the GPS satellites.

In other words, forever.

Bad Data (1)

NeveRBorN (86123) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558520)

Actually, from what I've learned, the reason alot of maps are incorrect is because they were drawn with bad data. I've noticed that my city has alot of streets on maps that don't exist or that are incomplete, and after asking around, I've found that this seems to happen for a couple reasons. In some cases the maps may have been drawn based on city plans. A right-of-way may exist where the road is shown on the map even though the road was never built or completed. In other cases roads have been changed or removed, and the maps have never been updated.

Prior art (3, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

The dancing dog observation (2, Insightful)

bfwebster (90513) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558604)

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..

Surveying (CAD and GIS) (2, Informative)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22558616)

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.
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