Here is a if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods question for our modern age: If a major new highway doesn’t show up on GPS, does it exist?
I had that thought this morning as I came across this tweet:
My GPS doesn't know what the #ICC is. I was scolded for 20 minutes.— Amy Morris (@amorrisWNEW) January 12, 2012
The tweeter is referring to the new Intercounty Connector, the $2.5 billion road that opened in full two months ago. It seems our shiny new highway, so technologically advanced that it doesn’t even need toll booths to toll us, is AWOL on many GPS systems.
You know what that means: those horribly annoying GPS voices grumbling “recalculating” and “recalculating” and “recalculating.”
My colleague Katie Shaver, who has covered the ICC for a while, spotted the problem in her very own Honda: “I noticed on my GPS that the western segment between I-370 and Georgia is on there, but nothing east of Georgia,” she told me in an e-mail. “It shows me driving into the blank oblivion.”
Fortunately, after driving into the blank oblivion, Katie was able to find her way home, which is good news because everyone likes Katie.
So what’s up with all this?
I called Maryland transportation officials to ask. Cheryl Sparks, spokeswoman for the Transportation Authority, said officials there have notified GPS companies and map makers that the road exists.
“It’s up to them to update their systems,” she said. “We are not in the GPS business.”
And the GPS business is rather confusing. Some GPS products require customers to pay for map updates. If you don’t pay, you will never know digitally that the road is there. Other products update by themselves, but only every few months. In both cases, the maps are only as good as the data used to build them.
It appears that at least one major maps provider — Navteq, which supplies data to Garmin, MapQuest, Yahoo, OnStar, Microsoft, and many car companies — still has not fully recognized that the entire ICC exists. (Google Maps does.)
(Update: It appears Google Maps shows the road, but doesn't offer turn-by-turn directions with it.)
I went to Navteq’s Web site, looked at its maps, and sure enough I saw the ICC’s progress stopping at Norbeck Road, around where the first phase of the highway stopped. Problem: The full stretch of the highway, all the way to I-95, opened in November. It’s mid-January. Imagine how frustrated those voices are inside GPS machines.
I have a call in to Navteq officials to figure out what’s taking so long. (Update: Navteq says it updated its data to include the road and is including the changes in its first quarter map update to customers. Those providers will then decide when to make the update available to users like you.)
Meanwhile, Navteq’s Web site has a page where users can provide updates and corrections to its maps. You can find it here. Go there and make your typing heard.
But be warned: This process could take a while. On the FAQ portion of the map reporting page is this question: “How long does it take to process a submission?”
The answer: “The timing varies based on the submission. We have developed technology that allows us to auto-correct some map reports while others require driven verification by our field team to get them right. In the vast majority of cases, map reports are resolved within 90 days to enable their inclusion in the next release of our database (which is quarterly).”