To say that Apple has been criticized for the Maps.app, which came at the expense of Google-powered maps in favor of Apple's new, in-house mapping system, is an understatement. Following the update and launch of the iPhone 5, Apple fans and haters joked and griped about how inaccurate the mapping system could be at times.
Accuracy issues aside (momentarily), the new Maps.app isn't meritless. It may be lacking the fine details on businesses and it may not have 20 or more petabytes of 360-degree Street View pictures. But the Maps.app that was powered by Google was a far cry from the Google Maps experience on, say, an Android handset. The new version introduces spoken turn by turn navigation, a much-requested feature, as well as Flyover, which is visually neat (yet not nearly as helpful as Street View).
No less, there are still kinks Apple is working on ironing out. In the meantime, users who need navigation and have opted to not download an alternative (or use the Google Maps web version) are at the mercy of Apple's sometimes questionable accuracy problems.
Complaints of addresses showing blocks away from their actual location have abounded, particularly in high density areas such as New York City or San Francisco. But this morning, a story out of Victoria, Australia takes the cake and shows how Apple's new Maps.app could be potentially dangerous.
Over the last couple weeks, local police have received distress calls from iPhone users who have used Apple Maps to navigate to Mildura. Instead of arriving in Mildura, though, the motorists were taken to Murray Sunset National Park, which is approximately 43.5 miles away. Says Victoria Police News:
"Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the Park and temperatures can reach as high as 46 degrees, making this a potentially life threatening issue.
Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception."
Luckily, as far as I can tell, no one was seriously injured, only lost, temporarily stranded, shorted a day and 44 miles from what could have been a nice day trip. And Victoria Police have reached out to the Cupertino-based firm in an effort to have the problem patched and avoid any more travelers to Mildura from becoming stranded.
What I'm interested in, though, is whether the mapping application on your smartphone – be it Google Maps, Nokia Drive (or HERE), Apple Maps or a third-party offering – has ever taken you on a wild goose chase. Have you ever queued directions to a specific place and ended up in a dark, abandoned alley or in a different city/town altogether?
Personally, I can't say that I've have any notable bad experiences with navigation systems of any sort – definitely not as bad as those looking to get to Mildura. But I have been taken on a wild goose chase a time or two, and my phone's navigation has been very, very confused at least once.
The first was three 20-minute trips out of my way to a State Employees' Credit Union. I did a quick search in Apple's new Maps.app that took me to an out-of-service ATM in a school parking lot. Very strange. The second SECU was, apparently, at someone's house.
The other instance was using Google Maps to find a U.S. Post Office. It took me to one that had shut down … more than five years ago.
But the most bizarre, by far, was a restaurant (I can't remember the name) in Charlotte. I took a left on to a street with a median. The restaurant was supposed to be on my left, so I took a u-turn. Immediately, the navigation prompted me to make another u-turn, then another. I could never find the restaurant on that strip and eventually had to call a friend to learn the restaurant wasn't even on that road.
This u-turn loop also happened to my step-father when we were on a vacation in Florida using VZ Navigator. Granted, both of these occurrences were several years ago.
Fortunately, my GPS has never taken me too far off track, especially not 44 miles from my destination. And I've never been lost because of some fatal glitch. Have you? Has your iPhone or Android device taken you on a wild goose chase? If so, share your story below!