Over the past couple of months, a few readers have sent us in photos of the Sensis WhereIs trucks, driving around the country with five cameras mounted to their roof and a computer rack sitting in the boot, leading them to think that WhereIs is on the verge of launching an Australian StreetView competitor. Sadly, that’s not the case.
The Telstra-owned mapping company last year launched the fleet of eight modified Nissan Patrols, armed with five hawk-eye cameras, with three facing forward and two facing backwards. Despite looking like they're capturing images for a streetview like service, the cameras are in fact surveying the landscape around the car, including road curvature, slopes and lane markings.
According to a recent feature about the cars in Fairfax papers by Katie Cincotta, the cars hit the roads four times a year and travel 240,000km each tracking changes to roads and missing locations to try and always keep their maps up to date.
Having up to date maps becomes extremely important when you remember that WhereIs doesn't just run an online mapping service, but also supplies maps to the majority of GPS units around the country. For GPS systems, having the most up to date information about the way the road curves and the way a road is marked is imperative in order to deliver services like lane guidance and traffic information to drivers.
So if you happen to see a WhereIs Nissan Patrol driving around, there's no point trying to pose for the cameras, because they won't be appearing on an online streetview-like service, and you'll just make a fool of yourself...