With a subtle announcement on its website, Apple has confirmed that it's sending cars out on to the streets of the US, UK and Ireland in order to acquire data -- including images -- that will be used to improve its Maps service.
On a new page, Apple writes that it's "driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps." It goes on to explain that "[s]ome of this data will be published in future Apple Maps update." The company says that between 15th and 30th June, its cars will be visiting spots across the US, UK and Ireland (check out a full list below).
Apple points out that it is "committed to protecting... privacy while collecting this data, explaining that it will "blur faces and licence plates on collected images prior to publication." That statement clearly indicates that its cars will be loaded with cameras to acquire images a la Google's StreetView.
What isn't made clear is if any other data acquisitions systems -- say, radar or laser scanners -- are aboard. It's those kinds of scans that could help Apple build incredibly detailed and nuanced maps of city streets, the like of which are used by Google and others right now to help self-driving cars navigate. There's no word on if that's something Apple is doing.
But if not -- if Apple is merely photographing city streets -- it's a very late catch-up with Google, which began rolling out StreetView all the way back in 2006. Still, tardiness with maps isn't unexpected from Apple, which only added public transit directions to its Maps services this week.
Apple is currently driving its cars in the following regions:
Arizona Pima (Tucson)
California Alameda (Oakland), Los Angeles (Los Angeles)
Florida Orange County (Orlando)
Georgia Fulton (Atlanta)
Hawaii Hawaii (Oahu)
Illinois Cook (Chicago)
Massachusetts Suffolk (Boston)
Michigan Wayne (Detroit)
Missouri St. Louis (St. Louis)
New York New York (New York City)
Texas Dallas (Dallas), Tarrant (Fort Worth)
Utah Salt Lake (Salt Lake City)
Washington King (Seattle)
East of England Essex (Brentwood, Epping Forest), Hertfordshire (Broxbourne, Dacorum, Hertsmere, St Albans, Three Rivers, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield)
Greater London Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Camden, City of London, City of Westminster, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth
South East Kent ( Dartford, Sevenoaks), Surrey ( Elmbridge, Epsom and Ewell, Spelthorne)
West Midlands Birmingham ( Sutton Coldfield, Perry Barr, Erdington, Ladywood, Hodge Hill, Yardley, Edgbaston, Hall Green, Selly Oak, Northfield), Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Staffordshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Worcestershire
Dublin (Dublin City [ Ashtown, Ballybough, Ballyfermot, Ballygall, Ballymun, Beaumont, Cabra, Chapelizod, Cherry Orchard, Clontarf, Coolock, Crumlin, Donaghmede, Drimnagh, Drumcondra, East Wall, Fairview, Finglas, Firhouse, Glasnevin, Inchicore, Irishtown, Kilbarrack, Kilmainham, Kilmore, Kimmage, Knocklyon, North Wall, Pembre, Phibsborough, Raheny, Rathfarnham, Rathgar, Rathmines, Ringsend, Sandymount, Santry, Templeogue, Terenure, The Liberties, Walkinstown, Whitehall], Dún Laoghaire -- Rathdown, Fingal, South Dublin)