When Google expanded StreetView coverage for the U.S. in December. I was struck by the visual on their blog.
Google is not a company that often buys data from others. They usually either buy a company or they build it themselves. This map begged the question: Could Streetview Data be used to replace TeleAtlas?
In a Forbes article on the Nokia Navteq deal in late 2007, Michael T. Jones, chief technologist of Google Earth, Maps and Local, was noted as saying “the company never considered buying Navteq. Instead, Google could simply recreate the data far more cheaply by tapping the mapmaking skills of its hundreds of millions of users — a wiki of maps.” They obviously decided to not buy TeleAtlas either.
While MapMaker could provide some fundamental data in many countries, it could never provide the accuracy and detail for travel routing. So I asked a couple of people who are more familiar with map making than I, if they thought that Google could use Streetview data to replace TeleAtlas.
It must be noted that neither has seen any concrete evidence at this point. Barry noted: “The ironic thing is that it’s basically Streetview type vehicles that TeleAtlas uses to create maps in the first place. The imagery is sent to India to read the road signs. It’s just that TeleAtlas never actually released the imagery itself.”
Certainly TeleAtlas provides more to Google than just the underlying map data. With their recent aquisition by TomTom they provide a sophisticated near real time network of PND devices that provide fast and accurate corrections. Google though does have the potential of Android and Fee pointed out that the iPhone already has data creation tools using OSM Track which allows updating of the OpenStreetMap layers and this it and similar devices could be used to provide mapping updates. Google Maps itself is also a powerful source for maps data corrections. Google has noted that “every hour, our users make over 10,000 corrections or additions to Google Maps”.
So the question is does StreetView + Android + Map Maker + Google Maps = TeleAtlas Replacement? Will Google ultimately control the Maps data from top to bottom?