Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apple Maps leads drivers to snake-infested desert

Apple Maps leads drivers to snake-infested desert

Apple Maps leads drivers to snake-infested desert
Australian police have warned travellers over using Apple Maps after several motorists were stuck in snake-infested desert while using their phones for directions.

Australian police have warned travellers off using Apple's troubled iPhone mapping software after several motorists became stuck in a snake-infested, desert corner of the country while using their phone for directions. 

Police in southeast Victoria state said they had been forced to rescue a number of motorists who had become stuck for up to 24 hours "without food or water" after being directed to the arid Murray Sunset National Park, instead of the tourist town of Mildura, 70km (43miles) away. 

"We had a fellow trapped in there just on Friday night after his car became bogged. He saw a snake, a goat and a fox, and he was too scared to get out of the car," Mildura police inspector Simon Clemence told Reuters on Tuesday. 

The Murray-Sunset National Park is in Victoria's far northwest, a relatively untouched semi-arid region accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicle. 

Clemence said at least six vehicles had become stuck on the desert park's sandy tracks after being directed by the iOS mapping system to turn off a long and infrequently sign-posted stretch of highway between South Australia state and Victoria. 

"These people have still been rescuable. But we've just had a 46 degree celcius day (115 degrees F). If they were out there in that temperature and out of phone range, they would have been in serious trouble," he said. 

Clemence said police had contacted Apple over the issue. But while the world's most valuable company had now rectified Mildura's location for people travelling from South Australia, motorists seeking directions from Melbourne city were still being directed off course by iOS. 

"If you punch in Melbourne to Mildura, it still puts you in the middle of the park," he said. "So they've got it half right." 

Police said people should not blindly rely on technology to get them to their location, although in fairness he said people could easily become misdirected over long stretches of road along the 377km Mallee Highway. 

"There's nothing to signpost, and people are just driving and driving when their GPS phone suddenly says turn," Clemence said. 

"But anyone who has used a GPS would know, they all make mistakes. You have to use your common sense and your eyes, and if it doesn't look right, then it probably isn't right." 

Apple's chief executive Tim Cook apologised to customers in September for problems with the new mobile mapping application and suggested they use a rival product from Google until the multitude of errors could be ironed out. 

Apple also sacked the executive behind the mapping software, and handed responsibility for hardware and software design to the company's industrial design guru Jonathan Ive.

Apple redraws maps after Australian drivers led astray in the bush

Apple redraws maps after Australian drivers led astray in the bush

Mildura police issue warning after motorists lose way in scorching temperatures because town misplaced on Apple Maps
Apple maps Mildura
Apple Maps: the red pin shows where the map service has marked Mildura. The purple pin shows the actual location of the town. Photograph: Google Maps
Apple has updated its new maps system after police in Mildura, Australia, said a number of people trying to find the town of 30,000 people became hopelessly lost in the bush in scorching temperatures.
One man was stranded for 24 hours last week in temperatures of up to 46C and at least three more have had to be rescued after following the directions given on Apple's new maps, which located Mildura among the dusty, sun-baked trails of Murray-Sunset National Park, the second-largest in Australia and far from the town's actual position.
Mildura, whose previous claim to fame was the ill-fated Nowingi toxic waste scheme (proposed in 2004, defeated in 2007), suddenly found itself the focus of international media interest over the latest example of Apple's calamitous move into mapping.
"We've had at least four documented cases," senior sergeant Stephen Phelan said on Monday before Apple made the update. "The map puts it at least 70 kilometres (45 miles) from where it should be. We have had people bogged down in Sunset country."
The iPhone maker updated the given location on Monday following widespread coverage of the problem. A search for Mildura now points to the middle of the town in the state of Victoria. At the time of writing it also showed an incorrect location near the edge of the park called Mildura – but that does not show up in searches.
Mildura police issued a warning on its website, pointing out the difference between the point then offered by Apple and the actual location. It confirmed drivers had been led astray and said the problem was "potentially a life-threatening issue" due to the intense heat and lack of available water in the area.
Apple said it was working hard to fix problems on its maps, which it introduced in September. It dumped Google's maps because the search portal refused to offer iPhone users features such as turn-by-turn navigation.
But problems quickly emerged with the detail in the Apple maps, which omitted a number of locations and mislabelled others .
Getting lost near Mildura is dangerous. "There's no water, and you can get bogged down in the sand," explained Toby Prime, a reporter on the local Sunraysia Daily. "Temperatures go up to 46 degrees." People may also have to walk some distance in the heat to get phone reception. Summer is beginning in Australia, and temperatures are soaring.
One man following the map on his phone had driven into the park at 6pm, three hours before it got dark, then realised he was nowhere near Mildura, but that to continue driving could get him stuck because of the sand on and around the road.
"The phone says Mildura is in the middle of the national park," Prime said. The man was rescued only after he had been in the park for 24 hours.
Mildura lies outside the park, as the police indicate on their own site. Apple's maps correctly identify the location of Mildura airport, near the town – but do not offer it as a destination for people searching for "Mildura".
The problems have only occurred since Apple moved to its iOS 6 software in September, the police said.
Apple dropped Google as its map provider in September with the launch of its iOS 6 software for the iPhone and iPad. But problems quickly emerged with the map detail, which had omitted a number of locations and mislabelled others compared towith the product that had gone before.
In October, chief executive Tim Cook issued a public apology for the poor quality of the maps and soon after fired the head of the iOS 6 software group, Scott Forstall. The head of the mapping group is also reported to have been sacked in November.
Apple buys its map data from a number of providers including TomTom, but there is no indication that its suppliers' databases are at fault.