Google charts its own course to the future in Japanese maps
Nikkei -- Mar 26
The landscape of Japan's digital map industry is shifting as Google seeks to cash in on a treasure trove of next-generation services requiring maps by increasing its independence from local partner Zenrin.

Users here have complained about Google Maps' worsening quality of late, saying it sometimes displays dangerous back streets as major thoroughfares and private roads as public. Google says it is working to quickly fix the problem.

The issues appear linked to Google's decision to slash the amount of mapping data it receives from Zenrin, whose name has vanished from Google Maps' copyright notice. The company has relied on Zenrin for most of its detailed data since it began offering its map service here in 2005.

Following Google's move, U.S. mapmaker Mapbox said in a March 19 blog post that it will receive data from Zenrin.

Zenrin is one of Japan's biggest mapmakers, with roughly 1,000 surveyors. Using cars with 360-degree cameras and laser measuring devices, it updates its urban maps annually and every two to five years for more remote areas. It can also distinguish new streets and name changes as well as public and private roads.

Japan's map market demands precision. Its cities are densely packed with buildings and narrow streets that are shared by pedestrians and motorists alike. Inaccurate maps not only keep travelers from arriving at their destinations, but also expose them to danger.

Google likely sacrificed some quality now to increase Google Maps' availability to developers later. The company said March 6 that "Google Maps' next step in Japan will be to provide everyone with more comprehensive and flexible maps."

News source: Nikkei
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