Apple Maps is the default mapping and navigation app developed by Apple for its iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and macOS operating systems. The application provides users with a wide range of features, including turn-by-turn navigation, real-time traffic updates, and the ability to search for points of interest. However, despite its many strengths, Apple Maps has a number of weaknesses—many of which it seems should have been resolved by now.
To be fair to Apple, some or all of these issues exist in other popular mapping apps like Waze and Google Maps. However, I don’t use those apps, so it doesn’t matter to me. I have no vested interest in whether or not Google chooses to fix them.
There are other things I would love to see changed or updated, but these three things in particular are pet peeves of mine, and they are things that I feel mapping algorithms and AI (artificial intelligence) in general—and Apple, specifically—should have fixed at this point.
Use the Route I Selected
When you enter a destination in Apple Maps and request driving directions, the app generally gives you three options to choose from. There is an estimated time provided for each path, and it will let you know if one or more paths require tolls. Apple also highlights the recommended path—the preferred route among the options from Apple’s point of view.
Often, the recommended path is fine and there are no issues. If you choose one of the other two routes for whatever reason, Maps will quickly recalculate the directions and provide you with the turn-by-turn navigation to get from Point A to Point B. So far, so good.
The problem arises if you deviate even slightly from that recalculated path. Maybe you miss a turn so you make a right at the next stop sign, or you veer off the path for a pit stop to get some gas. In such cases, the application will attempt to recalculate the directions and provide a new route to the destination—which makes sense. However, instead of providing you with directions to get back on the route you selected, Maps will typically recalculate directions based on the route it originally recommended.
Just because I miss a turn or stop for gas, or deviate from the path for any of a thousand other reasons, does not mean that I don’t want to continue using the route I consciously selected at the beginning. Apple Maps should be smart enough by now to understand and respect the choice the user made and continue to recalculate based on the chosen route.
That’s Just Not the Way I Go
It may be asking a bit much, but I think Apple Maps—and in a broader sense, Siri—should be much better at learning about me and what I like. Tech companies track and monitor pretty much everything we click, say, and do—in some cases whether we have opted out or not—so they can pollute our web browsing and social media feeds with “tailored” ads. I feel like that same invasion of privacy could be put to more altruistic use by having it inform and customize the AI experience over time.
I’m not asking for AI on par with Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S…yet. I hope we will get there, but I understand it takes time. In the meantime, though, we should be making progress. Your Siri should be different than my Siri because each should be learning who we are and what we like, and the experience should be tailored accordingly. And yet, Apple News will still show me propaganda from Fox News as if that is a legitimate source of information, and Apple Music will still occasionally suggest or play country music as if that is a thing human ears should be subjected to.
On the subject of Apple Maps, it would be awesome if the app could learn that there are some routes I just don’t take or some routes that I just always take, and adjust accordingly. When entering my subdivision, every mapping app will tell you to go straight and turn left further up the road. I am sure it is technically shorter or faster. However, there is an alternate route that I have followed every time for at least the last 7 or 8 years. I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect the Siri AI or the Maps algorithm to learn over time and recognize that the route it wants to suggest is simply not the way I go.
It Takes Time to Safely Change Lanes
This is one that I am fairly sure plagues all mapping apps, but it has gone on far too long and should be fixed. You can’t provide turn-by-turn directions that tell someone to get off at Exit 63 and turn right at the next light when the next light is less than a quarter mile from the exit, and turning right requires crossing 4 lanes of traffic.
This is also an issue sometimes when entering a highway. Apple Maps will tell you to use the ramp to get onto the highway and tell you that your next step is to take the exit on the left to switch to another highway. Oh. Fun fact. The exit on the left is less than half a mile down the highway, and you have to get across 6 lanes of traffic traveling at speeds of 60mph to 90mph to make it.
The Maps app knows the distance between the exit and the turn, the average speed and volume of traffic, and the number of lanes that have to be traversed to make the turn. I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect the algorithm to account for all of that and perhaps suggest you get off one exit sooner, so you have more time and distance to make those lane changes.
I am sure that in some cases these challenges may be unavoidable. In those cases, there should be some sort of notification or warning in the Maps app to let you know. Instead of just saying, “Take exit 10 and turn right at the light,” there should be some sort of warning to give you a heads up that you are going to have to very quickly cross multiple lanes of traffic to make it work.
Apple Maps has been providing turn-by-turn directions for over a decade. Siri has been acting as a virtual assistant for over a decade. I don’t expect J.A.R.V.I.S., but I do feel like these things should be improving and getting better at a faster pace. If ChatGPT can answer questions and create content that passes as human, and VALL-E can generate flawless deepfake audio from a 3-second recording of someone’s voice, I feel like these three things in particular are long overdue and would/should be relatively simple challenges to resolve.