When it comes to mapping of US state forest roads (which are typically open to the public), there is a clear distinction as to which service is doing it best.
Take a look at the photos below and I’ll tell you my story.
Last weekend at 4 AM I hopped in my Rubicon Unlimited custom Jeep to make the drive from Venice Beach to Big Bear Mountains. The route via Highway is about 140 miles but why not take the near 30 mile scenic shortcut through the San Bernardino forest? That’s what Jeeps are for.
It would be my first off-road trip through the area so I mapped a primary and secondary off-road route using Google Maps, and printed those maps, just in case I lost signal and could not view mapping via my phones (my Verizon Droid X and AT&T iPhone both lost carrier signal in the forest).
I wear a GPS that is synced to my camera (yes I am a geek) so that geographic location of photos I take provide accurate coordinate data. Take a look again at the photo of my jeep and related map screenshots above, the coordinates (34.2059, -116.764306) are displayed differently using Google Maps versus Bing Maps.
Admittedly, I took the photo of my Jeep while taking photos of several roads in the area, I was lost!
I counted on Google maps and thought the route would be simple (see the Google map screenshot above) by remaining right of the fork in the road. Problem was, there was more than the expected route to choose from. Had I used the map provided by Bing, I believe I would’ve had a much better understanding of what my options were.
Given a choice which map would you use? I was not lost at this point and I did make it to my destination successfully, but I discovered that there were a lot more roads in those mountains than what was being displayed via Google maps.
I have numerous examples from the weekend journey but the 3 examples shown above should make my point clear. Bing is doing a far better job over Google when it comes to mapping off-road location data.
Perhaps you’re thinking it’s no big deal, because these roads are not major thoroughfares, and therefore not traveled by many people. I would argue against that point and suggest that accurate mapping in areas like these is critically important.
The last set of images shown above relates to Juniper Springs Group Camp, which is located off of Highway 38, in the San Bernardino National Forest. While access is via four-wheel drive and the site is admittedly remote, unfortunately the map provided via Google does not list the route to this pinyon-juniper woodland and meadow. However, the map provided via Bing includes identification of State Forest Road 2N01, as well as identification of the Juniper Springs Camp Road, and surrounding roads.
Finding a route to a remote campground may not be considered critical, but imagine there was an emergency that required directing others to your location, which mapping system would you use?