How to lead GPS maps in the right direction

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A year and a half ago, I told a story in this column about being on a family trip to the mountains. Coming back through Sevierville on the way home, there was a newly-constructed bypass, and a flashing warning sign which announced that "YOUR GPS IS WRONG" and directing you to take the bypass for the best access to I-40.

I thought of that when I read this e-mail from reader Joyce Atterholt: "I live on Idle Drive, which is a dead end street with a cul de sac. Whenever I go online to get directions to someplace the directions take me up through the cul de sac and to Brown [Lane]. There is no street to connect Idle Drive to Brown Lane. There is a right-of-way, but no street. I'm sure that we get several vehicles that come up our street and have to turn around and go back due to the GPS faulty directions. Many people come up and turn around every day. I have had people from out of town who used a GPS to try to get to my house and they always get lost because of this mistake.

"Is there any way to correct the GPS directions and the online directions?"

I did some checking and have a few answers, some from a 2009 article at the website and from the website. Part of the answer requires you to figure out which service has the error.

Although there are plenty of GPS manufacturers and online mapping sites, they are, for the most part, drawing their information from only two or three sources. The major GPS manufacturers buy their mapping data from either Navteq or Tele Atlas. Garmin uses Navteq, TomTom uses (and, in fact, owns) Tele Atlas, and Magellan uses Tele Atlas (it used to use Navteq). Yahoo, Bing and MapQuest all use Navteq.

Google uses government maps combined with some of its own data.

Apple previously used Google Maps as part of its iOS operating system, but has just switched to its own in-house mapping, effective with the new iOS 6 upgrade. The new app seems to include maps licensed from TomTom, which would mean that the actual map data comes from Tele Atlas.

If there's a mistake, you first need to find out which source it comes from. You can then file an error report at the appropriate web site:


Tele Atlas:

Google Maps: Click on "report a problem" at the bottom of the left-hand column on the website. Or, you can use Google's "MapMaker" feature,, to report corrections.

Of course, as points out, that's only the start of the process. The mapping company likely won't take your word for the change but will want to check the situation on its own -- and that will take time, perhaps even a year or more before the mapping company gets around to your particular request.

Then, once Navteq or Tele Atlas has fixed its maps, you'll have to wait a little longer for the GPS companies or web sites to purchase and upgrade to the latest versions. And some individual GPS users don't keep their devices updated and may be using old maps even longer than that.

The bad news for Ms. Atterholt is that, even if she reports the cul de sac error tomorrow, it could be quite a long time before every single map or device gets corrected.

Who knows? By that time, they may have actually built the connector street.

--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government.

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