Apple is taking a leaf out of Google’s book by putting a fleet of vehicles on the streets of the UK and Ireland to photograph streets for its Maps application.
The news follows speculation in February that Apple was working on a rival to Google’s Street View service, after a car leased to Apple and covered in cameras and scanning equipment was spotted on the streets of San Francisco.
Apple is launching a page on its website listing driving locations for the cars in the UK and Ireland, initially covering the period of 9-30 June.
“Apple is driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates,” the site will explain.
“We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data. For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication.”
The reference to faces and licence plates is an admission that Apple’s vehicles will be taking photographs rather than simply gathering road data – which in turn signifies work on a rival to Google Street View.
For now, the vehicles will be travelling around London and Birmingham in the UK, and Dublin and Cork in Ireland.
Apple’s Maps app got off to a rocky start after its launch in 2012, with critics pointing to inaccurate data – including lost train stations, a shrunken Sears Tower in Chicago, and an entirely new airport appearing in Dublin.
The company has improved the service since then with features including place cards for locations; reviews, photos and ratings from services like TripAdvisor; and a way for small businesses to add and edit their information.
During its WWDC keynote on Monday, Apple announced new features due to debut in the Autumn as part of its iOS 9 software, including public-transport directions for several cities including London.
Google’s Street View was introduced in 2006 in the US, before expanding to the UK and Europe two years later. It played a key role in improving the company’s Google Maps service.
Apple will be hoping to avoid some of the controversies around Google’s Street View vehicles, including a privacy blunder in 2012 when the company admitted it had had not deleted private data, including emails and passwords, that it secretly collected from internet users around the UK.