Google has announced its new Google Maps Roads API that allows developers to create better route visualizations in their apps from raw GPS data by following actual roads.
Wow, what took them so long! This has been standard practice in car navigation systems and Fleet Management for years! The reason? To compensate for inaccurate maps was a major one. Of course there are also many common situations where there were problems with the GPS signal with urban canyons, placement of the antenna, position on the planet (the satellites are not in optimal positions for all countries yet) and other reasons the signal may be affected.
Why have they brought it in now? Because lots of people who use tracking apps want greater accuracy.
Of course we don’t always want greater artificial accuracy. For example if a road has been realigned, say some tight corners on a hill have been improved and Google Maps haven’t been updated, we would want the map to show the inconsistency of the map. If I was tracking myself on the big Round the Bays run in Auckland with around 40,000 entrants and I have to run an extra couple of km to dodge people who are chatting or blocking my way, I’d like my recorded route to be less accurately mapped to reflect the extra distance I ran, not just the official course distance.
So there are horses for courses. One of the common problems this can resolve for people who want to track their vehicles but aren’t pinging them every second is that the corner clipping will disappear, i.e. if you go around a sharp corner into a new street, and the GPS is pinged on either side, but not as you turn the corner, the map could previously have made it look as though you drove off the road, perhaps through a house and out the other side. When I was at Belle Meade in Nashville a couple of years ago, they told us that the sons of the plantation owner were known to open the doors on either side of their mansion and race their horses right through the house when their father was away. I don’t think people do that any more.
Anyway, good job Google for making that available to all Google Maps API users.