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NAVTEQ VS Tele Atlas


One of the big debates in the USA GPS market is the source of map databases. Most GPS enthusiasts have maintained that NAVTEQ data is more complete in the USA. I’ve always maintained there are errors found in both systems and the differences between the two are negligible. With the debate as hot as ever, I decided to put the two map sources to the test.

My own anecdotal experience is that I’ve found errors in the maps from both vendors. I never saw any large gaps in accuracy between the two. Therefore I’ve always recommended to people that the map vendor should not be a large factor in choosing between two GPS devices. Now I will find out if my advice had been any good.

The Test

To perform the test, I made sure I had the most recent databases available from each vendor in a popular GPS device. On the NAVTEQ side I used the most recent maps available from Garmin. For the test I used a Garmin Nuvi loaded with Garmin’s “v8” maps which shipped in July of last year. On the Tele Atlas side I used a TomTom GPS loaded with their newest map release which shipped in December of last year. So yes, there is a difference in ship dates, however these are still the most recent maps available on those devices today.

to get at least some addresses from new housing developments, I only took members who had changed their address.

I wanted to get a variety of addresses from a variety of locations throughout the USA. I decided to test 250 business addresses and 250 residential addresses. For the business addresses I picked a large group of retail stores which had all opened within the past five years. While the business is new, the address probably existed beforehand. For the residential addresses I took a random sample from a membership database of a USA organization. Hoping to get at least some addresses from new housing developments, I only took members who had changed their address within the past two years. (Hopefully some of those were moves to new homes rather than moves to existing homes to make the test harder.)

Now that my list of 500 total addresses was complete I set out on the painstaking task (literally painstaking) of trying to find each of those 500 addresses on both GPS devices. If I couldn’t find the address right away I didn’t stop there since I didn’t want to test how easy it was to enter an address on each device (although I did learn quite a bit!). Rather I wanted test to see if the address existed in the GPS.

A match was only counted if there was an exact location match to the street number.

I double checked spelling, tried different ordering of words in the street names, tried different prefixes, suffixes, etc. And here is one important point… A match was only counted if there was an exact location match to the street number in addition to the street. Just finding the street wasn’t enough, I wanted to find an exact location match for the street number as well.

The Verdict

NAVTEQ vs Tele Atlas

As for the 250 business addresses, I was able to find 83% of them within the NAVTEQ maps. I found a few more, 89%, with the Tele Atlas maps. A difference between the two of only 6%.

The residential results surprised me. I expected to have overall lower matches since I would assume new housing developments (streets) pop-up more often than new business addresses. I was able to find 86% of the addresses from the NAVTEQ maps and 92% of addresses from the Tele Atlas based maps. The difference between map vendors here was again 6%.


A few footnotes pertaining to this study. While searching for 1,000 matches may seem like a large sample, it only represents a tiny fraction of each address number on each street in each city in each state in the USA. While in this test the Tele Atlas data was more complete and resulted in a higher percentage of matches, there wasn’t a staggering difference between the two. Also just because a street address was found, doesn’t necessarily mean that it the address is drawn exactly where it should be.


So would I now recommend Tele Atlas maps over NAVTEQ in the USA? Not necessarily. I’m keeping my prior position that the map vendor isn’t currently something that should be a big consideration when looking to purchase a GPS device in the USA. If these results are representative of the entire database the difference between them would only amount to finding less than a dozen more addresses in a year, navigating to a new address every day.

5 Responses

  1. Very interesting test (and painful to achieve, I imagine!), thanks a lot
    Yet I just want to point out that 83% vs 89% is not 6% difference, but 7,23%; and 86% vs 92% is 6,98%.
    Ok it doesn’t change a lot but your maths teacher would have been happy 😉

    Stephane - February 27th, 2007
  2. Hi Stephane, Thanks for the math correction, you are correct.

    Tim - February 27th, 2007
  3. I applaud you (or anyone) taking the time to test the map vendors. It is something that we do not see enough of. However, from an academic and GIS industry standpoint, your testing methodology was flawed because of the way Navteq and Tele Atlas each handle addresses within their databases and because of the way each application vendor compiles the data.

    First, both Navteq and Tele Atlas have multiple names for each road (postal name, common name, honorary name, etc.). While this information is different for each map vendor, each application vendor uses different amounts of the data. As an example, one vendor may compile all of the different names for a street into the end-format on the device, while another application vendor may only include the first two names to save storage space.

    Second, the map vendors handle addresses differently within their database. Neither is necessarily better as each method has its preferred use and is evident based on the history of the two companies.

    Navteq has historically been a supplier to navigation companies. Because of this, they only include the street addresses if the address or address range has been verified in some fashion. Tele Atlas includes street addresses in a similar fashion, but it does something different for postal addresses (which both companies receive a list of, as do many companies, from the post office) that it does not have a source for.

    Tele Atlas geocodes unknown addresses to the center of the smallest boundary they can match to. As an example, if your house is not in the Tele Atlas street address list, they would place a reference point for you house address in the center of your zip code.

    Tele Atlas’s approach is extremely beneficial for GIS and geomarketing uses, but it can make consumers of navigation devices rather unhappy when they are told they have arrived at their destination only to be 5-10 miles away from the actual address. Navteq’s approach on the other hand will give an automatic unknown address error but may cause more problems for GIS and geomarketing uses. Which is the best way? It depends on the use.

    If you would like to actually test the address accuracy of each map vendor for navigation systems, you need to actually drive to each of the addresses to see if the address is actually where the map vendor says it is. Do not simply assume that because a system says that they have found it that they system knows where the address actually is located.

    Kevin [NAVTEQ Employee] - February 27th, 2007
  4. Kevin, Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. In the interest of transparency I think it is appropriate that we identify that you are a NAVTEQ employee, therefore I’ve put a suffix to your name indicating as such.

    I don’t believe the test was flawed. In order to navigate to a particular given address, that address needs to be able to be found via the device. Yes, the results could be a little bit different with the same map database in a device from a different vendor, but probably not by very much.

    There were other aspects of the test that I didn’t document in the text above, but perhaps should have. After an address was found on one device, I pulled it up in the respective “map” view from each manufacturer. Then I pulled it up on the second device and also looked at it in the map view. This way I could make sure that they were at least agreeing that the street/house number was in a similar location. This was pretty easy to verify by looking at nearby intersections.

    If I found that the address was in different spots on the street in the two devices, or if the locations looked to be more than about 1/4 mile apart, then I would try to get further independent verification. For example with the business addresses I could lookup the website of the business and look at their text directions to confirm which streets the address would be between. I think in only one case out of 500 locations was there a discrepancy I could not verify. So in these cases there are likely no instances where the address would have been off by 5-10 miles. If they were then that error was present in both devices.

    Typically the first step in using an auto GPS device is to find an address to navigate to. Having the device recognize that address is a critical step. If the address doesn’t exist in the database then the GPS will not be very useful to the user. This is the part being talked about here.

    You are correct though that there might have been differences when actually arriving at the “found” locations, and I acknowledged this in the last sentence of the “Notes” section. As you mentioned, driving to them would one of the few ways to confirm. My original plan was to do a driving test and scale back the number of locations tested, however there could have easily been a geographic bias (towards either vendor) if one vendor just happened to have mapped that area better. For example my home town is much better mapped by NAVTEQ than Tele Atlas, but that is just one area.

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your comments!

    Tim - February 27th, 2007
  5. I’d like to start by acknowledging the great work our employees have done in making our products superior in the industry. We’re thrilled to see more independent acknowledgement of the quality of our data. Having such strong competition ultimately serves our customers and the industry because it motivates us and our competitor to continually raise the bar. Though no one can claim a perfect database in a world that is constantly changing, we are striving to make a better map every day.

    Thanks to Tim for explaining that the addresses found on the TomTom are actual street addresses and not approximations such as ZIP code centers. On the subject of extrapolating destination locations, I’d like to add that Tele Atlas offers both address ranges and specific address points (which are the exact positions of verified building numbers). By using the combination of the address range with the address points, Tele Atlas customers will both find more addresses and be routed to their destinations with terrific accuracy (either the exact destination, or an extrapolation between known address positions). This serves both the navigation customer as well as GIS and geomarketing companies. It also positions Tele Atlas as a good choice in the emerging mobile phone navigation market, where a pedestrian will want to be guided to a doorway or a store front.

    Ken Accardi, Vice President, Quality and Process Engineering, Tele Atlas - February 28th, 2007

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