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How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic


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Let the maps wars begin.

Well said: "If Google's mission is to organize all the world's information, the most important challenge -- far larger than indexing the web -- is to take the world's physical information and make it accessible and useful."

Wow: "Let's step back a tiny bit to recall with wonderment the idea that a single company decided to drive cars with custom cameras over every road they could access. Google is up to five million miles driven now. Each drive generates two kinds of really useful data for mapping. One is the actual tracks the cars have taken; these are proof-positive that certain routes can be taken. The other are all the photos. And what's significant about the photographs in Street View is that Google can run algorithms that extract the traffic signs and can even paste them onto the deep map within their Atlas tool."

I could see Google reinvent itself as an energy company or a DNA mapping company.

But Google the self-driving car company is quite compelling, too:

As we slip and slide into a world where our augmented reality is increasingly visible to us off and online, Google's geographic data may become its most valuable asset. Not solely because of this data alone, but because location data makes everything else Google does and knows more valuable.

Or as my friend and sci-fi novelist Robin Sloan put it to me, "I maintain that this is Google's core asset. In 50 years, Google will be the self-driving car company (powered by this deep map of the world) and, oh, P.S. they still have a search engine somewhere."

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