Google Replaces Tele Atlas Data in US with Google StreetView Data

There has been a lot of activity of late in Google Maps with rollout of Places and its attendant controversy, tests of the new Local Listing Ads, Ads in the iPhone, Streetview in Canada & the Czech Republic and lots, lots more. I was at SMX East when Google Maps announced both more detailed Maps and the new Maps error reporting and updating tool.

That announcement in the LatLong Blog though was as interesting for what it didn’t include as what it did. One tidbit that has flown under the radar and was not mentioned in the blog post is that Google Maps has replaced their primary geospatial data provider in the United States, Tele Atlas, with their own data gathered from their StreetView cars.

According to the article a Tele Atlas spokesperson provided this statement on rumors that were floating around the Location Intelligence Conference last week:

“Tele Atlas confirms that Google has decided to stop using Tele Atlas map data for the U.S. Google will now use its own map data. Our relationship with Google for map coverage continues outside of the U.S. in dozens of geographies.”

It was only last year that Tele Atlas and Google signed a long term deal for Tele Atlas to replace Navteq as Google’s sole third party road data provider. In January of this year, after the late 2008 widespread expansion of Streetview in the US I theorized that Google could very well be on the road to replacing TeleAtlas as their supplier.

It is interesting to speculate on the move. Certainly, Tele Atlas’s data quality in the US has not been very high. Complaints about map quality in the forums, which started immediately upon Google using Tele Atlas data, were frequent and have continued. Reports of wrong street names, missing townships and use of very old mapping information were not uncommon. Despite powerful new feedback systems by Tele Atlas, time to repair these errors has often been 6 to 8 months, if ever, leading to additional complaints. It appears that Google’s new map error reporting mechanism can lead to map fixes within 24 hours. The forums, while picking up on the recently changed data, have been surprisingly quiet, given the magnitude of the change. It is also interesting to speculate on why Google was not forthright about this change.

This action speaks very loudly to both Google’s long term intentions in the Maps environment and provides interesting clues as to their immediate capabilities. It portends shakeups in the mapping business and positions Google as a major worldwide player in both delivery Map data and collecting it. It took Google roughly 10 months from rollout of their expanded US Streetview data to delivery of a fully functional Mapping product with routing. Can the rest of the world be far behind?

I hope to have a more in depth look at the implications of this move in another post.


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Google Replaces Tele Atlas Data in US with Google StreetView Data by

48 thoughts on “Google Replaces Tele Atlas Data in US with Google StreetView Data”

  1. It’s weird the change has actually caused Maps to revert to incorrect data (which used to have the same issue when G first switched to Tele Atlas) and ‘moved’ an entire city from being adjacent to Fort Lauderdale over to being part of the Sarasota FL metro area.

    Every query related to Sunrise, FL displays businesses and maps in the Sarasota area, but the actual city of Sunrise is in Broward County. It took quite a while to get the location corrected last time.

    I’ve been told ‘problem’ reports have been filed. Hope it gets fixed faster this go-round.

  2. Yes we will some of that as Google is probably reverting to a public domain data set for areas where they did not gather data similar to what Tele Atlas used when they switched. The difference is that Google is indicating no more than 30 days to fix and there have been reports of fixes within 24 hours.

    It has to be discouraging for those affected but maybe this switch will be for the best. Here’s hoping.

  3. Mike – thanks for blowing the cover off this one! I hadn’t noticed the subtle change in map data until reading it from you.

    So far, this change (along with the new “Report a problem” map feature) have worked to my advantage, by I wonder if Google will be able to adequately deal with maintaining their own map data. Can the “wisdom of the crowds” really go that far?

    I’m curious how they are verifying the reports in maps – satellite imagery, street view, field surveys? It seems unlikely that they’d be doing field surveys, giving their 30 day turnaround time on fixes.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  4. @Jim

    Certainly maintaining this data can be more daunting than collecting.

    I think that you have identified many of the ways they will use (although Google will think they can do without field surveys) to update data.

    In addition the wisdom of the crowd via the reporting tool might provide verification in those areas where they get enough feedback. Also in certain markets, data flowing in from the mobile Google Maps product might be used for confirmation. Android might also have some value there.

    I am hoping to publish a detailed interview later in the week that covers many of these issues in depth….if life doesn’t get in the way.


  5. thanks for reporting this. Was wondering why several street names in my immediate area are now wrong when they had been correct for so long.

  6. This has really cleared something up for me, Mike. Last year (or was that 2 years ago now) when I was speaking to Maps reps about a very messed up map, I was told it could potentially take something like 6 months for fresh data to be propagated through TeleAtlas and into Google. I was really stunned by the recent announcement that errors would potentially be seen to within a month. So, this is what is going on. Google can fix the errors faster because they don’t have to go through a third party provider. This, alone, signals a vast improvement in Google’s ability to provide accurate Maps. I know there are going to be many bugs up front, and likely many bugs in future, but I think this is huge news and a step in the right direction.

    Local seemed like a small deal once upon a time, but look at Google becoming a major mapping entity in it’s own right and just think about how huge that is.

    Great coverage of this. You have links pointing all over the place in the piece. A veritable compendium of information.

  7. @Miriam

    I too am hoping that Mapping errors can be corrected quickly. That being said, it is an algo and we know what they can be like. 🙂

    I would caution that every business, but particularly rural ones, need to go back and double check their new places page and make sure that Google hasn’t moved them to some ungodly location making it impossible for directions to work. Given that they are probably using data in the public domain for any place they didn’t have Streetview, it could be very dicey outside of the areas that Google “filmed”.

    I really wanted to reference everything as I knew this post was going to be widely read and I really wanted to be sure that I had covered all of the bases factually.

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  9. Will do.

    Funny story out of this already. My friend in Sunrise decided to call the City Manager’s office to see if they would file an error report and urge others in the community to do so as well. She was away from her business and used GOOG411 to get the number – and was first connected to the Sarasota city manager’s office.

    She finally did get through to the local office and in her attempt to explain the issue, a staffer there told her she probably just needed the services of a good SEO – and then offered to recommend one.

    Showing out-of-area companies really is an issue for small businesses like florists since the Sarasota shops can just take the orders and transfer them through wire services to local stores in Sunrise. By flowing through a wire service, up to 40% of the gross dollars spent never reach the delivering flower shop.

    On the plus side, the error reporting form in G Maps gives one the option of receiving email notification when the correction is made. Will let you know when it arrives.

  10. That’s one small step for business owners – one giant leap for Google-kind.

    It will be nice to see if Google can fix these issues quickly. I may go back to a couple of rurual clients to see if they’ve noticed a change for the good. We submitted a request to TeleAtlas a couple of months ago, but I doubt it was fixed. If not then I’ll submit the issue via – the “report a problem” button and see how long it takes to get resolved and fill you in Mike.

    Also it’s rather groovy how Google now has transit stops on the new Places page.


  11. Joan

    Remember this is US only at this point. Also rural is the issue. I would hypothesize that rural addresses are going to be much more problematic and in much greater need of “repair” as Google works to get Tiger/Census data in order.


  12. Interesting move. I’m sure Tele Atlas was ready for this as they probably knew as long as any of us that this day would come.


    1. @Dave

      I suspect that you are right. That being said TeleAtlas/Tomtom are the least able to withstand the new competition.

      Google’s data may not be the best but it will be good enough.

      Those that want cheap or free will use it via the API.

      Navteq is protected by their Nokia acquisition although they may suffer from corporatitis.

      TeleAtlas/TomTom are facing two huge bumps in the road. On the software side a new, strong competitor for Maps data on the low end, the loss of a client and increased competition going forward. On the hardware side they are seeing the market for dedicated PND’s being taken over on the low end by the likes of the iPhone. Their stock is now worth less than they paid for TeleAtlas just a short while ago.

      So while they probably knew, I wouldn’t want to be them.

    1. @JonTheNiceGuy

      That is definitely a nice guy thought. I can think of two answers that Google might give, both involve the word no. But hey, its a great idea and you never know.


    TeleAtlas’ data is just terrible. I can deal with problems with little errors here and there, but I’ve seen them with maps of entire cities with every road classified as a local road and no arterials!

    Unfortunately all the data in Canada is currently by TeleAtlas and not Google, but hopefully this will change soon allowing for major roads to return to downtown Ottawa and Montreal.

  14. @Ben

    TeleAtlas data in Europe is much better than in North America. It will be interesting to see if google replaces the bad data in Canada before Europe where they have been doing Streetview longer

  15. I would think Google would try to have more accurate data before making such a switch. I do hope that in the end it all works out to everyones advantage but you just never know with Google which direction they are going to take.

    1. @Joshua

      The data they had was pretty skanky so I doubt that it will take long with their new 30 day correction capability to catch up and pass what they had. But time will tell.

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