Alex Goldmark is the senior producer of New Tech City, a storytelling show about how technology is changing society. Subscribe here to get New Tech City shows delivered right to your devices. Follow him on Twitter @alexgoldmark.
Now You Can Edit Google Maps, Add Bike, Walking Paths
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 03:33 PM
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Errors on Google Maps matter. One even started a war. But now you, yes you, can fix them. And that means adding pedestrian and walking paths that are left off, or even removing a street that is impassable because of long term construction.
Google introduced Google Mapmaker for America yesterday. You can now add or edit roads, paths and even high-tension wires that aren't exactly accurate in your neighborhood. I tried it. It's easy.
I live in Manhattan where just about every road, sidewalk and even tree, has been mapped and re-mapped within an inch of its concrete life for more than two centuries. Still, there are a few improvements I had to suggest. In particular, there are pedestrian paths through my apartment complex that, according to Google Maps, don't exist even though I walk them every day.
Well, I fixed that.
It took about 15 minutes to fiddle with the settings, zoom in and out, change to satellite view to confirm everything was precise. In the end, I added a trapezoid shaped set of foot paths you can see above in blue, and two pedestrian underpasses that are open to the public and frequently used as shortcuts through the neighborhood.
The changes are currently awaiting review from other users who will confirm that these really exist and are not aspirational or fictional routes. Then, according to Google's blog, they will become official Google Map material within minutes. It's unclear if there is an official Googler reviewing the changes or just peer-reviews from other users.
Here's a video about how it works.
This feature has been available in other countries where the Google Maps cars and trikes haven't done as extensive a job as in the United States. But the goal goes beyond roads. Google wants you to add in where a soccer field is in the park, or add the actual correct location of the local coffee shop.
But the biggest boon this new addition is the crowd-sourced chance to add pedestrian and bike routes. There are countless avenues, parks and paths where walking and biking routes don't align with official roads. Adding in that non-vehicle information will make bike and walking directions more accurate, a persistent challenge for most online mapping programs.
I know I'm glad my neighborhood will be mapped more accurately the next time a friend uses Google Maps to plan their trip to my place.
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A version of this post appears on GOOD.