My GPS didn't know where I was!
November 25, 2008 10:36 AM   Subscribe

How long does it take for new data to get to the major GPS data providers and for GPS systems to update?

I flew into and out of Indianapolis this weekend. The Indianapolis airport authority just opened a brand new terminal at the other end of the airfield a couple weeks ago, replacing the old one, and my GPS couldn't navigate me as I was leaving the terminal because it thought I wasn't on a road.

Once it found me, it got all the exit numbers around the airport right, but the exit names were different because the airport approach is different than it was. None of this caused a problem - the roads are well marked and I knew where I was going - but it did make me wonder how long it takes for GPS data providers to feed updates about new roads, new airports, and whatnot into their systems.

New airports don't come on line every week, so it's not surprising there's a lag I guess, but is the responsibility for providing new map data on the GPS people or the airport-building people?
posted by pdb to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As an example, Garmin's North America 2009 map update, released back in April/May '08 was based on their map supplier data taken in the second half of 2007. [via]
posted by jaimev at 11:00 AM on November 25, 2008

GPS devices are just radios that listen to satellites. Everything that isnt about finding out your coordinates is controlled by the manufacturer. That includes maps and updates. I doubt there's any standard for this. I have a GPS that's never had an update released. I would just contact your manufacturer and ask them. They may provide updates but at a cost.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:17 AM on November 25, 2008

damn dirty ape - it's not so much an issue that I need solved (I'm not likely to go to Indy again any time soon, and I don't own a GPS, I rented it from my rental car company), just a general question. the "I doubt there's any standard for this" was more what I was looking for.
posted by pdb at 11:31 AM on November 25, 2008

In general there's no standard for this. Usually you can find out what year your maps are from, but I doubt there are many GPS owners that bother to update their units, so market demand is reduced meaning most companies will focus on making sure their newest models have new maps, but aren't too concerned with current models, or even minor revisions of their devices that are currently on sale. In addition, most manufacturers charge for updated maps (sometimes upto half the cost of a new unit) and you have to manually install them, so unless you're a hardcore gps-geek, chances are you won't see new maps.

Anecdotal example: Google Maps is probably one of the best for keeping up-to-date as they seem to continuously update their maps, or portions thereof, but my parents have been living in their current home for over a year, and Google Maps still shows a lovely green field where the housing estate is. In addition, there was a major highway built nearby about 2 years ago, and it only showed up in their mapping data a month or two ago.

One exception: If you own a luxury car with built-in GPS, the car companies will often provide a yearly update DVD (for a price) to keep your maps current. YMMV.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:57 AM on November 25, 2008

As far as I know, the GPS satellites only communicate latitude and longitude. The maps and so forth are provided by the manufacturer of the GPS receiver. Some GPS units might update over the air, but many would need to be updated with fresh maps through a connection to a computer. Also, map updates may not be provided free of charge.
posted by paulg at 12:09 PM on November 25, 2008

My last car's GPS unit came with CD-Roms that were 4 years out-of-date in terms of large scale public building projects in my area (South coast UK but considering the CDs covered most of the world I didn't sweat that).
My new car has a direct link Sat Nav which is meant to be updated at least yearly and when I bought it I checked the update was current 2008. But again a major bypass on one of my regular routes which has now been open for 4 years is not recognised, so I'm quite confused!
posted by Wilder at 12:54 PM on November 25, 2008

You can report map bugs to TeleAtlas here - TeleAtlas being one of the 2 or 3 big companies that supply the underlying map data to nearly everyone.
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on November 25, 2008

As GuyZero mentioned, TeleAtlas (owned by Tom Tom) and Navteq (owned by Nokia) are the two main sources of base maps for just about every mapping service. Zoom to a road view on Google Maps, notice the copyright info in the bottom right? Google and Yahoo will display the provider for a given view, Mapquest just covers all the bases with a "Navteq or TeleAtlas" notice.

Article on Navteq's mapping of Australia (not every road is visited, lots of details are gleaned from existing data sources like DOTs, public works, etc)

My company receives a yearly update (on several DVDs) from TeleAtlas. They also offer monthly transactional updates used by the internet mapping services. Portable units are slowly incorporating continuous base map updates via the internet (RIP Dash) but will be limited to base map update release cycle.
posted by llin at 12:39 PM on November 26, 2008

« Older Do there exist any combination USB turntables/tape...   |   Where can I find nice larger-sized men's dress... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.