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December 11, 2012

Apple Maps Dangerous, Mildura Police Warn, After Motorists Stranded

Apple Maps could have been a killer, police in Australia say.

Four different motorists attempting to find the city of Mildura were stranded in a national park in sweltering temperatures in the past few weeks after following faulty directions courtesy of the iOS 6 mapping system on their iPhones.

Apple updated the location Dec. 10 after receiving a complaint from the Mildura Police force.  A search for Mildura now points to the middle of the town in the state of Victoria instead of the Murray-Sunset National Park.

Before Apple made the update Dec. 10, the Mildura Police issued a warning to motorists to exercise caution when using the iOS 6 mapping system.

Officers were called to assist motorists on at least four different occasions in “potentially life-threatening” situations after they became stranded within the forrest after following directions on their iPhones.

“Police are extremely concerned as there is no water supply within the park and temperatures can reach as high as 46 degrees (114 F), making this a potentially life threatening issue,” Mildura Police acting senior sergeant Sharon Darcy said in a statement.

“Some of the motorists located by police have been stranded for up to 24 hours without food or water and have walked long distances through dangerous terrain to get phone reception.”

When police officers tested the mapping system, they discovered Mildura was listed as being located in the middle of the Murray Sunset National Park, approximately 70 kilometers (43 miles) away from the actual city.

“Anyone travelling to Mildura or other locations within Victoria should rely on other forms of mapping until this matter is rectified,” Darcy said at the time.

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently admitted Apple had “screwed up” and was working to improve the program.

Cook issued a written apology to Apple customers Sept. 28 for the inferior quality of its iOS 6 map app.

“At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers,” he wrote. “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment.”

Apple has received a large number of complaints that the Maps app, a part of iOS 6, is a substandard replacement for Google Maps. Until now, Apple has used Google Maps on its iPhones.

As a result, Apple has been aggressively enlisting former Google’s Maps software engineers to improve the new iOS Maps — an app that has received two thumbs down from critics.

Users of the new app — which was to seamlessly integrate with Siri, Apple’s virtual voice-driven assistant — have complained of errors such as misrepresented locations and out-of-date place names. Other complaints included limited mapping data and building data as well as problems with Flyover rendering.

Cook’s letter said Apple decided to provide its own app to add features like turn-by-turn directions and flyovers.

“While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.”

In the fallout from the Apple Maps debacle, Scott Forstall, the former head of Apple’s iPhone software development, was asked to resign after his refusal to sign a letter apologizing for the app’s flaws.

Forstall led the unit that was responsible for the Maps app.