You know how Google's Street View cars just gather photos and route data? Well, it turns out there's more to it. Under the hood of Google maps is the Ground Truth Project: an automated, artificial intelligence system that scans and interprets Street View shots and integrates relevant information into Google's maps. It could be why Apple will struggle to keep up with the Mountain View monolith in the mapping wars.
In an interview given to the BBC, Google Maps boss Brian McClendon discusses exactly why the company values this technology so much:
But Google's computers also analyse the images to identify street signs, speed limits, addresses, business names, rights of way at road junctions and other information. Human operators then check over each area to correct mistakes before the data is incorporated into the maps.
"The benefits of having Street View can't be undercounted," Mr McClendon says.
"We have over 20 petabytes [21.5 billion megabytes] of imagery and have driven and published over five million miles of Street View roads."
With this technology, Google has become less reliant on third parties for maps data (which means no licensing fees!) and is now functional in 31 countries. Aside from Ground Truth, McClendon also voiced his commitment to mapping the interiors of public spaces, along with developing 3D models for buildings.