Nokia's Army of Drivers Are Secretly Making Awesome Maps

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Nokia may have not been the most obvious choice when Apple CEO Tim Cook sent unhappy Maps users to competitors, but as The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal explains, the company has one huge advantage: An army of drivers. The thing that has put Apple so behind everyone else in this area are humans, as we've explained before. Google has over 7,000 people, many of those street view car operators  working to make the most accurate software ever. Getting its GPS data from FedEx, UPS, and its own cars, Nokia, however, has more. For example: "While Google's driven 5 million miles in Street View cars, UPS drives 3.3 billion miles a year," writes Madrigal. Meaning, Nokia's maps get a ton more on the road data. "We get over 12 billion probe data points per month coming into the organization,"  senior VP of Location Content Cliff Fox told Madrigal. 

All that real-life driving data makes things as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Apple Maps will send people to the wrong locations or mislabel roads (or is missing them altogether), in part because of the lag between crafting the map and it getting into consumer hands. Things change. "To build it the first time is relatively the smaller task compared to maintaining that map," Fox said. With all its various ways of getting information, however, Nokia has a better chance of keeping the map right. Madrigal explains:

They can then use that data to identify new or changed roads. In 2012, they've used the GPS data they get to identify 65,000 road segments. (A road segment is defined as the strip of surface between intersecting roads.) The GPS data also comes in handy when they're building traffic maps because they know the velocity of the vehicles. 

Apple certainly doesn't have that man power—yet. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.