No, Siri, I Don’t Want To Go There!

Apple’s Maps May Be Improving, But It’s On A Long Road To Recovery

The Problem

So much has been written about Apple’s Maps app and its really obvious errors—wrong street names, bad address placements, unnecessary steps, etc.—but one issue in particular that remains after so many updates to iOS and repeated bug reports to Apple is so obvious I wonder if the colleges Apple recruits from are teaching graph theory at all in computer science courses anymore.  The issue I speak of that causes rending of garments and gnashing of teeth?  Maps loves to change my route after I’ve explicitly chosen one.

When you choose a destination and request directions, a number of alternate routes are often presented.  On occasions like Saturday night, August 13, 2016, when CA-91 was shut down for construction, this useful feature helps avoid tied-up traffic.  As I’ve done often before, I chose one of the more out-of-the-way routes to avoid eventual backed-up traffic and set off on my way.  I might not have started my trip exactly as Apple’s Maps suggested—parking lots, roundabouts, and places to do a U-turn often require a slight deviation of a few hundred feet.

As I’ve experienced before, Apple’s Maps decided that those slight deviations were enough to completely alter my course from the one I chose, directing me miles away from the route I’d chosen earlier and attempting to place me directly in the line of the backed-up traffic I wanted to avoid.

Checking my original bug reported to Apple on this issue, I see that rdar://problem/12552627 filed on October 22, 2012, is still marked as open.  At least it hasn’t been closed as “working as designed.”

The Solution

When a user chooses an explicit, alternate route in Apple’s Maps, any re-routing algorithms should consider any deviations, especially those within a few hundred feet of the start, to be negligible and maintain the same route as closely as possible.  Hopefully Apple will start hiring software developers who can make good use of the tools present instead of wasting time interviewing prospects on how to reverse the characters in a string or any other algorithm that can be looked up in a textbook.

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