Apple Maps blamed for ‘dangerous’ inaccuracies in bushfire app

Apple Maps blamed for ‘dangerous’ inaccuracies in bushfire app

12 February 2013

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Australia — The Country Fire Authority in Victoria has blamed Apple for reportedly dangerous deficiencies in the maps on its FireReady bushfire information app for iPhone and iPad.

The FireReady app was forced to use Apple Maps, CFA said, but the maps were inaccurate and “Macedon and a number of other Victorian towns are located incorrectly”.

“Users report that towns are located on their maps at the centre of the district rather than on the actual township itself,” a CFA spokesman said.

Marcel Theunissen from Mt Rael in the Yarra Valley said his local CFA “fireguard” bushfire safety community group and others in the region had made “many complaints” about the Apple Maps lack of detail and errors in the CFA FireReady app.

“One of the problems with Apple Maps is that they don’t show the names of cities and townships at all times,” said Theunissen.

“This makes it very difficult to quickly determine the exact location of fires once alarm calls are being received. This creates potentially dangerous situations and delays to activate phone trees if required.”

CFA said it had contacted Apple Australia “a number of times”, including on Monday, but the company “has not provided a solution”. Instead Apple advised users to report inaccuracies via their Apple Maps app.

“CFA will continue to raise its concerns with Apple Australia, and so should users experiencing this issue,” the CFA spokesman said.

“We would advise FireReady app users with iOS6 installed on their devices to disregard Apple Maps township locations and instead focus on street names and the location of incidents & warnings in relation to their GPS location.”

The FireReady app has been rated two stars by iOS users and several reviews complain the app is slow and crashes.

CFA urged people not to rely on one source for emergency information and said warning and incident information was also available on the CFA website (which uses Google Maps), emergency broadcasters and the Victoria Bushfire Information Line 1800 240 667.

In December, Victoria Police advised travellers against using Apple Maps after having to rescue several motorists who were led by the app into Murray-Sunset National Park while searching for Mildura, which Apple had labelled in the wrong place by about 70 kilometres.

Apple Australia declined to comment but pointed to a statement made by chief executive Tim Cook in September last year not long after the launch of Apple Maps. The application had towns, landmarks and other information in the wrong place and even incorrectly listed the location of Apple’s flagship Sydney store.

In the letter posted on Apple’s website Cook said the company “fell short” with Maps and was “doing everything we can to make Maps better”.

Cook recommended competitor map apps and Google has since come out with a new iOS6 app of its own after being booted from the platform.

In November last year Apple fired Richard Williamson, the manager who oversaw the mapping team, not long after asking iPhone software development head Scott Forstall to resign reportedly for refusing to sign a letter apologising for the flaws in maps.

Apple finally enabled turn-by-turn navigation in Australia in November after delaying its launch following widespread complaints about the maps. It has gradually been improving the app but experts have said it will take some time before it comes close to Google Maps.


Screenshots of the FireReady app.


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