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Apple’s EyeDrive system for collecting map data using advanced vehicles

Apple Maps

It’s no secret that Apple has used vehicles equipped with advanced cameras and sensors to collect geographic data to improve Apple Maps. However, the detailed process of collecting data was not known to anyone outside Apple’s team. Well, that’s changing today.

We’ve now learned more about the process the Cupertino – based technology giant uses to collect data for the Maps platform, including the vehicles and gadgets the company uses, and protocols that Apple̵

7;s team must follow, thanks to the brand’s internal material revealed online by a Twitter user leaving @ YRG04E (Andrey)

While Apple began collecting data using modified versions of vans, the company now has two car models in its fleet, a white Subaru Impreza and a Lexus x450h. The white Subaru Impreza has the code name Ulysses, while the Lexus x450h has the code name TycheEach. The Subaru Impreza needs a driver to drive it, while the Lexus x450h is a self-driving car. These vehicles are said to be part of Apple’s 3D vision team. This team is responsible for combining data from multiple sources with computer vision and machine learning to provide 3D images in Apple Maps.

The manually-powered cars have a rooftop tower with high-resolution cameras with Zeiss lenses and LiDAR scanners. The self-driving cars, on the other hand, have a horizontally mounted camera system. These cameras and sensors feed captured images and data to a 2013 Mac Pro located in these vehicles. The computer processes all the data captured by these cameras in real time.

Each car is said to have four 4TB SSDs, which are used to store the data processed by the Mac Pro. These SSDs are sent to Apple at the end of the day to process the data further. According to Andrey, the set of four 4 TB SSDs reaches the storage capacity within a week. He claims that Apple uses UPS delivery time overnight to send replacement of SSDs.

All of these processes are controlled by a modified version of the iPad that Apple calls the EyeDrive. This iPad is loaded with an EyeDrive app that provides the tasks to be done, and which allows operators to manage the captured data. Andrey also reveals that there are two different EyeDrive apps, one for manually powered cars and one for self-driving cars. Both apps have prominent icons.

Apple instructs the team to start capturing when the sun is at a 30 degree angle and stop the process when the sun reaches 30 degrees again. If photos and data are taken before or after these times, the sun’s rays appear to be interfering with the LiDAR sensors. Apple also instructs operators to collect data in perfect weather conditions so that images come out consistent.

At the end of the day, these cars return to a safe and unknown location, where operators inspect the car, store the collected data safely, and shut down all systems. These sites are rented by a front company to maintain anonymity. All collected data is then used to enhance Apple Maps and its features, including Flyover and Look Around. Apple is said to be expanding its network of vehicles to collect geographic data in Canada, Europe and Japan.

Our take

Google has collected geographic data far longer than Apple, and therefore Google Maps has much more information than Apple Maps. Although Apple Maps seems to have a better quality of information. In addition, Apple is increasing its game to collect geographic data. The competition between Apple Maps and Google Maps seems to be getting tougher with each passing day. What is your favorite map platform? Apple Maps or Google Maps? Let us know in the comments section below.

[Source: 9to5Mac]