Outdated GPS Maps
With lots of people recently purchasing GPS navigation systems for summer travel and outdoor activities, one of the most common questions/complaints we receive is Why are the maps outdated?. Let’s look at the normal flow of information starting with the people who map the roads and ending up at your GPS.
There are two major companies who provide the data for most GPS maps, Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ. Regardless of your GPS manufacturer, chances are good the maps come from one of those two companies. These companies send drivers out on the road every day to map the roads. They are typically equipped in a van with an extremely sensitive GPS receiver and sometimes a few video cameras.
These mappers go out to map roads that have changed positions, new roads, and new residential areas. They also respond to feedback of areas where the data might not be accurate and remap those areas.
Once the mapping companies have mapped a new area or remapped an old area the new maps are loaded into their databases. This happens almost immediately as their databases are constantly being updated with new data. But this data doesn’t make it to your GPS nearly as fast…
Although most of the GPS manufacturers use data from the same companies, what they do with the data is their responsibility. They need to convert the data into their own internal formats. The GPS companies also write the programming for calculating routes which is why different GPS systems often calculate different routes even though they have the same underlying map data.
Once the new data is converted into the proprietary format of the manufacturer it needs to be produced in a format suitable for distribution. CD and DVD media need to be produced for sale. Some companies offer this updated data on a yearly basis, some less often, and there are a few GPS manufacturers who I’ve never seen offering map updates.
So let’s say you receive a new GPS today and you find a part of the map that is out of date. You report back to the GPS manufacturer or mapping company and alert them that part of the map is out of date. The mapping company will then need to schedule a review of that particular area. There are nearly 4 million miles of roads in the USA and these companies map countries all across the world. Therefore it might take them a little while to gather those corrections.
After that it is up to the GPS manufacturer to determine how often they purchase updated map datasets from the mapping companies. As mentioned above sometimes this happens annually and sometimes this happens even less often. So adding up this time can mean that it will take years for map updates to reach your GPS. It can also mean that the GPS you purchase today will likely contain many outdated maps.
It would be nice if this significant delay could be reduced. However it appears this scenario will continue for the near future. Perhaps down the road manufacturers and mapping companies can work out an automated system whereby the the manufacturer will receive updates, the updates get converted into the manufacturer’s proprietary format, and finally changed data offered for download into the GPS receiver.
Unfortunately until that happens you can expect even brand new GPS systems to contain data that is sometimes several years old.