The new Google data certainly adds details in some places, from a quick random sampling - for example check out Commons Park in downtown Denver using the nice GeoFabrik Map Compare tool. None of those paths were there previously in Google. Still not quite as good as OpenStreetMap in this case though :).
This does dramatically reshape the geospatial data industry though. Previously there were two commercial providers with a detailed routable database of roads in the US, NAVTEQ (owned by Nokia) and Tele Atlas (owned by TomTom), now at a stroke there is a third in Google. OpenStreetMap is a fourth provider of course, not quite up with the other three in terms of coverage and routing quality in the US yet, but getting there very quickly.
This raises lots of interesting questions:
- Will Google sell its data to providers of third party navigation systems and compete with Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ? Or indeed will they sell/license it to others who could use it (users of GIS, etc)?
- Will Google Maps on the iPhone (and other mobile devices) get real time turn by turn directions? This was previously prohibited by licensing terms from Tele Atlas and NAVTEQ. Existing real time navigation systems using data from these two providers generally cost in the region of $100. Will Google add this to the free maps offering? Or sell a version that does real time turn by turn directions?
- Will Google contribute any of this data to open data initiatives like OpenStreetMap? Or make it available to USGS for the US National Map? In the past they have cited licensing constraints from their data providers as a reason for not being more open with their geospatial data, that reason largely goes away now (though we don't know all the new data providers and their terms). I'm not holding my breath on this one, but we can hope!
- Will this negatively or positively impact OpenStreetMap? Previously in areas with active communities, OpenStreetMap had significantly more detail, and more current data, than Google - this appears to move Google forward in that regard. But will Google taking another step towards total world domination encourage more people to want an open alternative?
So anyway, definitely a very interesting development for the geospatial data industry (albeit one that has been on the cards for a little while). It will take a little while to understand the full implications. I'm sure Tele Atlas is glad they are no longer an independent company, I wouldn't like to have seen how their stock price would have dropped today otherwise :O !!
Update: some more discussion and a link to a podcast on this topic featuring Steve Coast, James Fee and me in this follow up post.