Apple 'Look Around' cars to drive around Australia for new mapping platform
A fleet of vehicles will this month take to the streets of five Australian cities capturing still images that will eventually end up in Apple Maps as representations of an area in the new "Look Around" feature of the company's mapping platform.
If you're thinking this sounds familiar - it does. Back in 2008 Google started driving cars around Australian cities and towns. A year after, the launch of Google Street View.
Today, it's almost accepted that within a map on Google or within the Google Maps app you can zoom in and virtually stand on the street to work out which shop is which and help find your way to your destination.
And of course, it's great for checking out the front gardens of random people's homes captured on the cameras which sit upright on the roof of the mapping vehicles.
Apple isn't using Google's Street View images, they're at war with Google and Mapping is an important frontier.
Having the best maps, the best information and the best navigation is a selling point for device manufacturers and business listings within maps are a source of great revenue potential too.
Apple announced a new feature called "Look Around" earlier this year which is their own take on Street View.
Operational only in New York City, Los Angeles and the San Francisco area at this stage, the company clearly plans to roll it out globally over time.
However, that can't be done in an instant. First, a camera needs to take a photo at every angle from every location across each city.
Apple has today published a list of which Australian cities will be visited and when, showing that by the end of 2020 they will have visited all eight states and territories.
The launch kicks off in Melbourne, the ACT, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney with cars starting their mapping efforts this month. By 2020 that list will have also included Tasmania, Queensland and Darwin.
As the car drives around the streets, the camera which sits high above the vehicle takes photos in all directions and at the same time gathers data about altitude, direction of travel and the latitude and longitude.
The vehicle also collects a LiDAR image of the area which is a more three-dimensional look at a spot, which can be paired with the image to help form the realistic looking 3D images we get in mapping apps.
Having learned the lesson from Google who faced scrutiny over its mapping vehicles in 2010, Apple is not collecting any WiFi information.
Apple also confirmed that their systems will censor any faces and number plates on any images that are published.
During the overall roll-out of the new-look Apple Maps - there will also be some imagery collected indoors at places like airports and shopping centres, though there is no word on that happening in Australia at this stage.
Users will have to wait until the images are published before they can find out what things Apple captures on its journeys - something Google has become famous for after driving past everything from people who have tripped over on the street to a bloke seemingly naked in the boot of his car.