back to article Apple updates maps to remove Australia’s ghost-city in the desert

As Apple pushes out an update to iOS 6 maps to remove the now-notorious “desert Mildura”, I’m going to sound an unusual note of fairness to Cupertino for the mistake. It wasn’t actually Apple’s fault. It looked bad compared to Google Maps, because the Chocolate Factory has spent an awful lot of money, time and petrol on …


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  1. jaduncan


    I'm curious who you would imagine responsibility laid with if not the people providing the map and presenting the data to the end user. An entire 'city' located with no visible urbanisation on the satelite image shouldn't even be missed by the automated flag-this-for-human-review check routine.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Re: Interesting.

    Same reason that if you put in a zip code it doesn't recognise Google Earth centers you in the middle of the USA.

    The mapping is so bad here in "the land above the land of the free" that a local company makes a very good living by driving around following all the roads and addresses and then selling the data to the city/fire/ambulance/police.

  3. LarsG

    Blame blame blame

    Rely on a sat nav, even in this country satnav are not infallible.

    The weak point of every satnav is not the programming or the the operating system is the brain dead human using it. How many times have drivers followed a satnav yet ignored all road signs, safety advice and got stuck, driven into rivers or canals and even the sea, gone the wrong way, got stuck in tunnels, gone on to railway lines and even frozen rivers?

    And yet if they had opened their eyes..... I always carry a map as back up, no batteries to run out and no signal to lose. Don't blame Apple, Tom Tom, Garmin or any of the others, blame the idiot using it.

  4. Alex 50

    Re: Interesting.

    What if the flag-this-for-human-review check routine decided to use administrative locations as the centre of cities because that worked for everything the humans looked at (such as, for example, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth & Darwin)?

    This error just shows that some of the assumptions made during the automated data preparation were wrong.

    This case also shows that navigation using maps is only as good as the person using the tool. To get to the mythical Mildura Rural Town, these people had to drive through Mildura proper. If they didn't look at the signs saying "Mildura" and think, "something's wrong here", who is to blame? If they didn't stop and ask a local (say, at a petrol station) for advice, who is to blame? If they then didn't see any more signs indicating the way to Mildura, why did they keep going?

    People seem more willing to trust their computers than the physical world around them.

    Welcome to the future foretold by The Marching Morons.

  5. Bobthe2nd
    Thumb Up

    Re: Blame blame blame

    During a recent closure of a motorway, I noticed a satellite crossed out sign next to a diversion sign. I presume this is to try and convince people to use their eyes and follow the signs and not just follow the satnav!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Interesting.

    Google Maps quote on 12th December:

    "Now police in Colac, west of Melbourne, say faults with Google maps are putting people's lives at risk along the Great Ocean Road and in the southern Otways"


  7. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    ... despite their datasets being provided for them by other companies.

    But even weirder is how the press have raved about Nokia's maps, despite their "Here" service being utterly f*cking useless here in rural Italy.

    Google's data still insists that the main road to Viterbo goes through three small medieval towns (including the one I happen to live in) and requires no less than five – count 'em – dangerous hairpin bends, not to mention some godawful junctions. I've seen HGVs trying to squeeze up through the town's very narrow streets (some barely wide enough for a small car) despite the existence of a 12-year-old bypass right there, and clearly signposted.

    In fact, the only map service that actually gets my neck of the woods right is, er, Apple. They've even put the correct road labels on the bypass as well. Google's still doesn't.

    I guess digital mapping of an entire planet's landmasses is too hard for any of these three to nail it 100%. Gosh! Who knew?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    If you give us more info about the roads you think google has got wrong we would be able to count the hair pin bends but you haven't so we can't.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    It is not weird. It is because the idiots replaced a perfectly decent maps app with their own maps app which was pretty bloody obviously a work in progress. If it had been running in parallel then we could have decided for ourselves which app we preferred. But apparently we aren't to be trusted with making our own choices. If you want credit for all the good aspects of a product you also have to take the blame for all the crap. Any other way is just childish.

  10. Steve Brooks

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    I am guessing he means Viturbo Italy, which his now seviced by the Starada Statale 675, the old road appears to be Viale Fiume which joins to the Strada Ortana with rather nice looking hairpin bend and some picturesque little towns...source google maps, whod a thunk it!

  11. Comments are attributed to your handle

    Re: Sean Timarco Baggaley

    You obviously didn't read the very first comment, did you?

  12. mccp

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak... @ Sean Timarco Baggaley

    You know you can submit changes to Google Maps?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    Apple is going to get no sympathy on here but for most people Apple maps is 'perfectly good' and Google maps is far from perfect either (as others have noted). People assume all was well with Google maps - well the sat imagery seems much older (so dare I say it less accurate) on Google maps at my house, my office and most other places I have compared.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    Apple get the flak round here because there are lots of Android owners looking to put the boot in for some reason.

    Ask an iPhone owner what they like about their phone and they'll show you the apps and features they like using. Ask an Android owner and they'll tell you all the reasons why they think the iPhone is crap.

  15. Colin Miller

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    You can get satnav for trucks; they should know about the hight/width/length/weight restrictions of the routes, and should route you along suitable roads, if you've told them about your vehicle.

    However, they cost a good bit more, so I'm not sure how many truckers use them instead of car satnavs.

  16. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    @AC Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    Pah, I like Android because it doesnt get tied to iTunes, it doesnt have an Apple logo.

    Oh Fudge

    To be truthful, I only went Android because Nokia was looking outdated, WinCE I never liked, iPhones for the fear of turning "Smug".

  17. Dr?

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    Here here. The guy who got the boot from Apple shouldn't have been the guy who developed the program, but the plonker that decided to pull all rivals' map applications at the same time.

  18. Dr?

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    But yet here you are not saying a word about the great apps on an iPhone but slagging off users of Android.

    For the record, I love my Android phone because of the endless opportunities to customise it, the brilliant PowerAmp app and being able to drag and drop data to the phone.

  19. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak... @ Sean Timarco Baggaley

    I submit updates to google regularly, but only about 1 in 3 is actually accepted.

    Most relate to 6'6" signage and can be clearly seen in streetview, but it's clear that some Google staff have no idea what that means.

    They also don't usually tend to accept updates which say "Oi, you're routing trough traffic down residential roads when it should be using the bypass" (Although they did for the mess around M25J9's staggered ramps)

  20. SpiderPig

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    Apple get the flak because they have stuck themselves on a pedestal of never doing wrong and their fanboys promote this to the death. I hate to say it but if Steve Jobs was still around this would never had happened, he would have never let what is still an Alpha version of software be released into the wild.

    They deserve everything they get.

  21. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    Hmm, I too looked at google maps and saw a huge motorway like road and thought "That can't be the bypass that Sean Timarco Baggaley was on about, it must be someother road not even visible in sateliite view. Unless Sean Timarco Baggaley hasn't looked at google maps for a while...".

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak... @ Sean Timarco Baggaley

    you know they don't take a blind bit of notice if you do?

  23. Vic

    Re: It's weird how Apple get all this flak...

    Ask an iPhone owner what they like about their phone and they'll show you the apps and features they like using. Ask an Android owner and they'll tell you all the reasons why they think the iPhone is crap.

    Strange - my experience is the exact opposite of that.


  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If you prepare food for sale to the public, it is your responsibility to ensure that the ingredients that you purchased are fit for human consumption. Similarly, if you prepare maps for use by the public, it is your responsibility to ensure that the raw data that you purchased is correct.

  25. Alex 50

    Re: Responsibility

    It has never, in the history of the world, been the map maker's responsibility to get things exactly correct. It is up to the map user to ascertain the veracity of the data on the maps.

    Map makers will introduce deliberate errors to detect who is misappropriating their copyright.

  26. Lunatik

    Great. Maybe Apple can now instruct their map app that there is a large urban centre called Luton, Beds. (pop. 203,000) just North of London off the M1, replete with international airport, and to stop directing anyone looking for directions to 'Luton' to the tiny village of Luton, Devon (pop. SFA) instead?

  27. Steve K Silver badge

    What about Oxford Circus?

    I looked for directions from Holborn tube to Oxford Circus on Apple Maps.

    I now know that there is a Circus centre outside Oxford. Bit far to walk and not what I was after...

    No mention of the more proximate alternative at all.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Ever been to Sheffield, Cornwall? Nor has anyone else!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    internet mapping

    is as accurate as wikipedia. tried the official route to correct an error on google maps - nothing happened. gold standard in the uk is ordnance survey, can also access this via however translating osgb grid to lat long is complex i believe streetmap can do it though, or a decent gps.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: internet mapping

    an error on google maps

    We have a fucktonne of Google Maps errors around here. Ghost roads that don't exist on the ground but are shown quite clearly on Google Maps complete with names.

  31. Ivan Headache

    Here too.

    This afternoon I had to drive a school I had never been to before.

    Google maps gave me a great route - except that that last 100 metres or so was a footpath between two houses - complete with anti-bicycle barriers.

    The actual entrance was several streets away.

  32. Ian Easson

    Re: internet mapping

    Those are done for copyright reasons.

    Makers of maps almost always include fake items like side roads, etc., so that they can check to see if someone is literally copying their intellectual property.

    Supporters of FOSS say patents are evil, but copyrights are fine. The truth is that all things, including all forms of intellectual property, are susceptible to abuse.

    Get used to it.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Re: internet mapping

    Those are done for copyright reasons.

    Or in the case I mentioned, not for copyright reasons. Google used local govt map info that includes roads that were planned in the 60s but never built.

  34. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

    Re: Here too.

    Don't stop just with the map: look at satellite view and street view. Then you may have spotted the bicycle barriers.

  35. factor

    Centre of local council area

    It appears Apple Maps has been using the geographic centre of the local council area as the "point of interest" whereas a local council area is an "area of interest" -- not something you can navigate to when they can be enormous in Australia. This is not a single problem, they've stuffed up over this entire continent.

    Google Maps handles this far better -- when you search for a suburb in Google Maps it outlines the area, with boundaries, of that suburb.

    Apple needs to allow a Google Maps app to replace the Apple Maps app as the default (fully integrated). It is now an essential part of the phone for me, not an added extra.

  36. Peter Murphy

    Re: Centre of local council area

    Interesting error. So why did they introduce a new methodology with Australia that isn't even the one they use in the United States? The geographic centre of New York is a traffic centre in Queens, but the "point of interest" you'd expect to navigate to would be something like New York City Hall or possibly Times Square. Both of these are in Manhattan.

  37. factor

    Re: Centre of local council area

    Depends what data Apple could source for a country & the ability of their people to determine which sources are valuable to real users.

    I suspect no locals were employed by Apple to interpret the data. The local council districts will be in some government database of official names. Yay cheap/free names -> GPS coords data. That section of the government database is of little interest to normal people .. but the computer doesn't know that.

    Google Maps doesn't display local government areas at all, instead it displays suburbs. Real people use these when describing where they live. Google Maps shows both the area of interest and a point of interest within that area when you search for a suburb. The point of interest tends to be an intersection near the highest density of businesses (ie: the local shops / local shopping strip). Smart. Unlikely pulled from any database, can be inferred by other points of interest already in their database.

    For cities (cities with multiple suburbs) Google Maps appears to place the marker at the place road distances are measured to. Usually the original post office for the city (for Australia). In the US that appears to be "city hall".

  38. John Angelico

    Re: Centre of local council area

    Interesting. That means that the centre of the Rural City of Mildura is 70Km from the real Mildura, isolated, without water and dangerous for non-4WD driving, and out of mobile phone range - even emergency services.

    Now THAT'S better than Woop-Woop for the middle of nowhere!

  39. FlatEarther

    Re: Centre of local council area

    I think you'll find that woop-woop is a lot more than 70km back'o'bourke

  40. Will 28

    The end result?

    It's fine to suggest a reason to why they made the mistake, but the fact is that it was innacurate. It's not really much consolation to the stranded tourist that it was a genuine mistake, they want results. Google provided, Apple didn't. If the data was so bad, why just Apple as the victims?

  41. VeganVegan

    GIGO and more

    The crux of the issue is the accuracy of the data source, that might have accumulated all kinds of cruft during the non-digital era, but now subjected to accuracy checks by massive number of eyeballs.

    Curiously, during the old paper map days (and even today!), one way to know if your competitor map publisher stole your map info is to introduce an small, intentional error in the map you publish...

  42. scan300

    What does Mildura Rural City signify?

    Mildura Rural City is the area with includes Mildura. It is an administrative designation similar to Shire or County or City or even Council. Effectively they are the same thing, one being a larger area and the other smaller.

  43. Alex 50

    Re: What does Mildura Rural City signify?

    And here is an example of the usage of "Mildura Rural City":

    For the record, the official centre of town for Australian cities is the post office (or GPO if the city has more than one). Thus if you are driving along a road and see "Sydney 120" that means that from where you are, the route to the Sydney GPO is 120km. This is also why you will see "Mildura Post Office" listed, but no "Mildura".

  44. Mongo

    The Google DeLorean hits 88mph to visit Jamestown, NZ

    Here's the prestigious waterfront location of 66 Lake St, Jamestown - complete with property boundaries so you can check if you've got more beach than the Jones' next door:

    But before putting a deposit on it, check the satellite view: hut, not so many roads, even fewer Jones' for the BBQ meet & greet. As the 1966 Encyclopedia of NZ relates:

    about this time the shipping service was discontinued and, as the road had still to be commenced, Jamestown had to rely on the extremely irregular calls of a Government paddle steamer. The inevitable happened. A steady exodus began, and by 1879 the struggle was over. Tilled fields went back to bush and scrub, the rough dwellings were deserted and sank into decay, and before the decade came to an end only sagging eaves and gaping doors and windows remained as a reminder of what might have been.

    Yet somehow - charmingly - Google acquired the Jamestown map along with all of the other cadastral data for NZ and so though already a ghost 130 years ago it lives on - it'll be a sad day when this error is expunged.

    (Google also shows the Lower Hollyford Rd extending to Lake Alabaster, which thankfully it doesn't, despite the very best efforts of tourism development wankers to get a thwacking great highway bulldozed through Fiordland National Park down to the Tasman Sea and up the remote and magical coast to Barn Bay. Probably the road end is rutted by confused fishermen turning around)

  45. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Re: The Google DeLorean hits 88mph to visit Jamestown, NZ

    It's a sad day... nothing but a marker on a featureless shore when I looked.

    Does Google monitor the Reg. forum for urgent map updates?

  46. Mongo

    Re: The Google DeLorean hits 88mph to visit Jamestown, NZ

    PHEW! - at least here it still works:

    FWIW that's using Chrome incognito mode to (try to...) divorce it from my last set of queries.

    The property boundaries are the fainter lines, so 66 Lake St is a particularly des res. But ominously a few years ago the roads were in normal road colour and had names so this seems to be just the pure cadastral data. Fading out like a Cheshire Cat? (leaving nothing but the faint air of disappointment that an amusing nook has been scrubbed clean and rectilinear)

  47. nigel 15
    Thumb Down

    they didn't have to release it.

    Yes it takes money, time and effort to get it right, but they had other options. They could have bought decent data, they could have left Google maps where it was.

    Lots of things are hard. Making a mobile phone is hard but of you step up charge people up to 700 quid, you have to get it right.

  48. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    It's a laugh to poke fun at Apple

    But you have to give them credit for working on a fix so rapidly.

    But I still don't really want an iPhone.....

  49. Winkypop Silver badge

    Rocket Lake - land for sale

    Downtown "Mildurah"' from $75,000

    Ask for dodgy Pete.

  50. MacroRodent Silver badge

    Mapping is drudgery

    The creation of good maps is something that requires lots of legwork with no shortcuts, but the modern idea seems to be to take questionable data and expect user feedback to improve it. (I thought this applied only to OpenStreetMap, but seems the commercial players do it as well). Works with places with lots of users giving feedback, but leaves you with crap elsewhere.

    Not sure how it is elsewhere, but in my country the governement and cities used to have an effective monopoly on maps, and the result was of very high quality, with the series of topological 1:20 000 maps giving even the locations of larger stones accurately. That was the result of decades of precise aerial photography, combined with surveyors going on foot all over the country to check up things (my uncle used to take part in this as a summer job).

    Such an operation would be uneconomical as a business proposition... An example of something valuable that just will not be done unless paid by the taxpayers.


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