Wednesday, October 7, 2009
One of the exciting challenges of working on the Geo team at Google is that the physical world is constantly changing, and keeping on top of these changes is a never-ending endeavor. For example, 15,000 miles of roadway are built in the United States each year. At the same time, we are fortunate to have a large and active community of users who want to share detailed information about the places they live, work, and travel.
So, as part of our ongoing commitment to provide the richest, most up-to-date maps possible, we continuously explore ways to integrate new information from users and authoritative partners into Google Maps. Two years ago, we began allowing you to move map markers to improve address precision; since early last year, you've been able to add locations; and over the past few years, we've been partnering directly with transit agencies to integrate their data.
Today you may notice that the United States looks a bit different in Google Maps -- all of that new green park land was probably a giveaway. That's because we've worked directly with a wide range of authoritative information sources to create a new base map dataset. In our experience, these organizations that create the data do the best job of keeping it accurate and up-to-date. For example, in the US there are a number of publicly accessible geospatial datasets created by the government for the Census, land surveying, and transportation. These datasets provide information on everything from road networks and water bodies to toll roads and bridges. By integrating this information, and working with specialized data sources like the USDA Forest Service's Forest Boundaries and the US Geological Survey's National Hydrography Dataset, we've been able to expand and improve features in our maps like parks and water bodies. Satellite, aerial, and Street View imagery also helped. With overhead imagery, we could zoom in on roadway details to figure out details like the size of the road. Our Street View imagery, which you know as a tool to help you explore new places, turns out to be very helpful to understand road restrictions and confirm street data by reading street signs.
The best part about this new dataset is that we've been able to add a lot of new, detailed information to Google Maps - information that helps people better explore and get around the real world. For example, college students will be pleased to see maps of many campuses; and cyclists will now find many more trails and paths to explore. Soon we even plan on providing you with biking directions to take advantage of this new data. Of course, in the true Google spirit of "launch and iterate," we plan to work with more data sources to add new features in the map.
So where do you fit into this? Well, we've found our users are also remarkable data sources themselves, so we've added a new tool to Google Maps that lets you communicate directly with Google about any updates that you think need to be made to our maps. You'll find this "Report a Problem" link on the bottom right of Google Maps (you can also find it by right-clicking on the map). Has that new highway on-ramp finally opened up? Do we have an outdated name for your local school? Was Main Street converted into a pedestrian-only walkway? Tell us! Once we've received your edit or suggestion we'll confirm it with other users, data sources, or imagery. We hope to resolve each edit within a month. If you submit your email address, we'll even keep you posted on our progress. The video below walks you through the process, or learn more here:
We're constantly working on making sure Google Maps is up-to-date, accurate, and includes the information that you care about most. Your edits and feedback will not only help us achieve this goal, but will help everyone in your community to get around town better and explore the world.