Vic Police warn drivers not to use iOS 6 Maps; we say use common sense

Police in Mildura are advising drivers not to use the nav feature on the Apple-developed Maps app that’s included in iOS 6. This is due to several incidents where drivers relying on the Apple Maps’ nav function have been guided into the middle of a nearby National Park, where the system incorrectly believes Mildura is.

According to Mildura Police, officers have been called to help distressed motorists lost in the middle of Murray Sunset National Park, about 70km away from the true location of Mildura. On several occasions motorists “have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception” and Police are worried that with summer temperatures sometimes reaching a high of 46 degrees, lives might be endangered.

The Victorian Police have raised the issue with Apple and, until changes are made to Apple’s native Maps app, has urged drivers heading to Mildura to use other maps or navigation devices.

Opinion: While this particular case is just another instance of the dodgy quality of the maps used in Apple’s new in-house Maps app (the Maps app used in iOS 5 and prior was supplied by Google), it also serves as a cautionary warning for anyone using any type of map, electric or otherwise. No map is ever perfect and there are always errors.

Most of the time the errors aren’t quite as glaring as completely misplaced towns or landmarks. Often the errors are phantom streets (often these are non-existant roads that are inserted into a base map as a form of copy protection), footpaths graded as streets and vice versa, and missing or incorrect road restrictions. If a sat nav asks us to turn right, when there are signs clearly forbidding this, most of us are smart enough to ignore the exhortations of the computerised voice, drive on and wait for the sat nav to recalculate the route.

Due to the vast majority of us living in, working in, driving around and reporting map errors about our state capital cities, map quality in the major urban centres is generally very good. Errors we normally spot involve missing turn restrictions (especially right and u-turns), housing developments and new roads. If you’re using an offline GPS device without a map update package living with these mistakes is just a fact of life — just as it once was when we all lugged around paper street maps.

Although things have definitely improved in the last year or two, whenever you head out of the big smoke there’s always a degradation in the quality of the mapping data (Apple or otherwise), especially as you head into the more remote reaches of Australia. If you’ve ever driven along a country highway, looked across to your GPS or sat nav screen and wondered why your trusty guide thinks you’re driving through someone’s field instead of the highway, you’ll understand what we’re talking about.

That’s why whenever we’re heading out to places unknown, especially if they’re in the back of beyond, we always do a cross check with, say, Google Maps or an old Touring Atlas of Australia. And if we think we’re getting the bum steer from our electronic devices, a quick enquiry at the nearest town or service station never goes astray.

Oh, and whenever you’re heading out of town, don’t forget to always carry plenty of water and ensure that your fuel tank is always at least half full. Trust me, the thought of being stranded in a campervan a few clicks outside Coober Pedy in the blazing heat still scares me to this day.

Categories: Gadgets, News, Opinion, Tech

Derek Fung

Derek Fung

Derek has a lifelong love for all things automotive, from the dullest Camry to record shattering Bugattis. Prior to starting up Between the Axles he was a reviewer for CNET Australia and the founding editor of its Car Technology channel. [Read more]