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  • Blog, Gadgets - Written by on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 12:43 - 14 Comments

    Apple Maps losing Victorians in forest

    blog We haven’t found Apple’s new mapping application in iOS 6 to be that much of a headache — in fact, it does offer some noticeable improvements in some areas over the previous Google Maps tool — but then we weren’t trying to use the platform to navigate by road to the Victorian town of Mildura. According to the Victorian Police, quite a few people have made that mistake — and ended up in the middle of nowhere. Go figure. Victoria Police’s media release on the subject:

    “Mildura Police are urging motorists to be careful when relying on the mapping system on the Apple i-phones operating on the iOS 6 system after a number of motorists were directed off the beaten track in recent weeks. Local Police have been called to assist distressed motorists who have become stranded within the Murray-Sunset National Park after following directions on their Apple i-phone.

    Tests on the mapping system by police confirm the mapping systems lists Mildura in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park, approximately 70km away from the actual location of Mildura. Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the Park and temperatures can reach as high as 46 degrees, making this a potentially life threatening issue.

    Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception. Police have contacted Apple in relation to the issue and hope the matter is rectified promptly to ensure the safety of motorists travelling to Mildura. Anyone travelling to Mildura or other locations within Victoria should rely on other forms of mapping until this matter is rectified.”

    Now, your writer was originally (presumably for sins in a previous life) brought up mainly in the rural NSW town of Broken Hill, which isn’t too far from Mildura … and frankly, there just aren’t many different roads out that way, so in our opinion you’d be pretty hard-pressed to get lost on the way to where you’re going. Why not just follow the signs saying ‘Mildura’ on the side of the road? I’m serious … there aren’t that many towns out that way. However, if the problem is this bad, at least it’s worth letting people know about it. I’d be curious to hear feedback from others using iOS 6 — how accurate have you found Apple’s new geographical tool to be when it comes to Australian locations?

    Image credit: Google Maps (ironic, I know)

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    1. EchoEcho
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink |

      They’re not lost, Apple just hasn’t relocated the town of Mildura 70km to the “correct” location yet http://www.theonion.com/video/apple-promises-to-fix-glitches-in-map-software-by,30616/

    2. David Drury
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink |

      The Register’s comment on how this happened is interesting http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/12/10/apple_maps_ghost_mildura/, they have also taken your line that the driver has to at least take some of the blame.

    3. Tony Healy
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink |

      That Register article is the best of the several floating around the web. Good work Richard Chirgwin. As he points out, the Apple maps confused the centre of the Mildura Rural City Council area with the city itself.

      Apparently the group of drivers that were mislead were those heading east from Adelaide, along the road to the south of the Sunset Country. Normally they would head east to the main north-south road, and then head north. As everyone points out, follow the tarmac and big green signs.

      Apple thoughtfully directed those people to “shortcuts” north through the desert country. Within a few kilometres those tracks become sandy and many involve steep climbs and drops over sand hills. Most drivers realised there was something wrong and returned to the highway.

      I actually know that area well. I shiver at the thought of unprepared people driving through the Sunset country in the middle of summer. It’s lucky there were no serious problems.

    4. Troden
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink |

      lol – Suffer iPhone users.

      • Simon Reidy
        Posted 11/12/2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink |

        Let us know when you graduate from kindergarten.

    5. Mark
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink |

      Not the first people to stupidly follow their gps and they won’t be the last, there were plenty of these stories going around a few years ago

      • bern
        Posted 11/12/2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink |

        I’d hardly categorise myself as the kind of person to “stupidly follow their GPS”, but I’ve been in situations where I’ve been given dodgy directions by the GPS (a stand-alone unit, not smart-phone). It’s surprising how hard it is, mentally, to reject the guidance provided by the GPS and follow a different route, even when you know the area well. That voice saying “turn left here” is pretty compelling, even when you know if you turn left it’ll take you 50km out of your way…

    6. Stephen H
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink |

      I first encountered this story on Tech AU (at http://www.techau.tv/blog/technology-is-imperfect-and-people-are-idiots/). According to their article, only one driver was idiot enough to require rescuing, rather than the many implied by the Victoria Police press release.

      I’ve since seen the story on Ars Technica and here at Delimiter. People at Ars Technica were suggesting that the fault lies with the maps data that Apple bought. This is contrary to a previous article on Ars suggesting that you can have the best data in the world and still screw up your maps application (kind of like The Register indicates – putting the town at the centre of the Council area – although The Register also manages to get things a bit wrong).

      But Mildura is hard to miss if you follow road signs and apply common sense.

      • Tony Healy
        Posted 12/12/2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink |

        The TechAU report misinterprets what the Mildura police officer said. The officer stated that only one driver was out of phone range when he needed help, and thus had to walk to obtain help. The others who needed help, presumably because they were bogged or confused, were still in phone range.

        My understanding, based on local reports, is that there were six people who needed assistance in some form, and there were others who realised the mistake on their own and returned to the highway.

        As to the source of the mistake, I doubt it was the map data. Rather it was Apple’s search algorithms that thought Mildura Council was the same as Mildura City, and then were dumb enough not to assess the “going” of the tracks in the desert.

    7. Dan
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink |

      I did this as a test on my iPad and it offers 3 routes to “Mildura” from Adelaide. I can see how someone might think that a turn off might be a “short-cut” (to the incorrect location) but I’m also of the opinion that common sense isn’t all that common these days.

    8. Simon Reidy
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink |

      I’ve noticed Maps getting slowly better in Hobart (I can use it to navigate around accurately most of the time using Siri) but there’s still some glaring omissions and errors. Like Australia’s oldest casino for example (and of Hobart’s biggest buildings and tourist destinations).

      Apple Maps thinks the casino is over the road in the middle of some people’s houses, with no further information.

      Apple Maps – Wrest Point Casino

      Google is of course spot on with a ton of additional accurate information:

      Google Maps – Wrest Point Casino

      And now the even funnier satellite comparison:

      Apple Maps – Wrest Point Casino – Satellite View

      Google Maps – Wrest Point Casino – Satellite View

      Apple made the worst mistake ever dropping Google Maps. In fact every move they’ve made against Google products and services has only ended up hurting the customer.

      I’m hanging for Google’s 3rd party Maps app to arrive in the App Store. Although of course being Apple, without jailbreaking it’ll never be able to be integrated in with the phone again, unless they do a complete 180 on their attitude and allow the user to select default apps, via something similar to Android’s awesome “intent” system (yeah, I know.. keep dreaming).

      • PeterA
        Posted 12/12/2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink |

        I particuarly like the quality of the google maps satellite view.

    9. Kerry
      Posted 11/12/2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink |

      This is an example of why Australia should have an easy to access authoritative set of spatial datasets that are reasonably priced.

    10. David Drury
      Posted 12/12/2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink |

      The amusing followup from this today, Apple Maps doesn’t know where Mt Isa is either

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