Uber + Apple Maps Mayhem

May 1 2016

My wife and I are Uber users. Around three months ago, every Uber we ordered started telling the driver to go to the back of our house rather than the front. Our address is on a pretty major street in Toronto and there's nothing obstructing a normal front door entrance. And yet for some reason, Uber has decided that our address should redirect to the back laneway of our house. We don't have an apartment number or anything and like I said, our house looks like all the houses on every street in Toronto. Front yard, porch and a door. This causes quite a lot of confusion for the poor drivers who are sent on a goose-chase each time they try to pick us up. After submitting my bug twice to uber support, all I got back was:

"We've resolved your inquiry"

Ok, let's come up with some theories about what's going on here since Uber doesn't seem to care:

Uber is attempting to figure out where on a property a person likes to be picked up. This is great for big buildings with multiple entrances like my office, but obviously fails in a residential setting.

This would be very presumptuous of them and is unlikely, unless i'm part of some forgotten A/B experiment.

I'm part of a different experiment they're doing on picking up people at the back of their houses to avoid holding up traffic in busier neighbourhoods.

Unlikely for the same reasons as 1.

My address is resolving to the wrong lat/longitude

Why would this be? When I query my address on Google's API I get this response:

"geometry" : {
    "location" : {
        "lat" : 43.6670866,
        "lng" : -79.3402703
    }
}

I checked on a map and the coordinates look good to me.

Uber decided to go on their own and ditch Google maps and is experiencing the pains of mapping/way-finding traversal algorithm design.

After some investigation I've realized this was (mostly) right!

Uber seems to have dropped Google maps as their provider for driver mapping. Uber drivers use a different app than users for finding their way to a user requesting a ride. For my address, Google maps (the provider for the Uber app that I use/see) finds it's way to me no problem and there's no issues on my side of things. The blue line of travel for the driver lines up with Pape Ave and everything looks copacetic to me:

Google maps is right

But the driver (using Apple maps) sees something different. They see a line going to the back of my house, which is Apple maps just being Apple maps; a total circus of a way-finding algorithm:

Apple maps goofing

I've reported the issue to Apple. If they fix it, I'll know pretty shortly because my food and taxis won't be going to my backyard.

Final Thoughts

It's interesting how Uber drivers get completely thrown off by the directions. It's pretty obviously wrong and the street they need to be at is just one street East so at any scale, they can see it on their screens. My address is on Pape Ave and yet not one driver so far has looked and thought to themselves that the pin is not on, you know, Pape Ave.

I can only glean that they have a stressful job and are probably not encouraged to deviate from where Uber tells them to go, which leads me to my second thought:

Do not use two separate map providers for a two-sided way-finding service. Especially when one of them has such a rich history of failure. It's crazy to me that this oversight flew by a technology reviewer at Uber. Watching my drivers go round and round my house and chasing after them like a mad man has been a far worse experience than any traditional taxi service I've used.

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