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Google Refines United States Map

The world changes and Google Maps is changing with it by adding new data about the US.

Google on Wednesday announced the addition of new datasets to Google Maps to expand the breadth of geographic information available to users.

"Today you may notice that the United States looks a bit different in Google Maps -- all of that new green park land was probably a giveaway," said Google engineer Andrew Lookingbill in a blog post. "That's because we've worked directly with a wide range of authoritative information sources to create a new base map dataset."

Google Maps now includes several datasets created by the US government that fill in details about roads, bodies of water, and toll bridges, among other things. Using datasets such as the USDA Forest Service's Forest Boundaries and the US Geological Survey's National Hydrography Dataset, Google has improved the detail and accuracy of map imagery.

The company said it has also been using its Street View imagery, acquired by drivers under contract with Google, to understand road restrictions and to confirm street names by reading photographed road signs.

According to Lookingbill, the new map data provides more information about college campuses and paths used for biking and hiking.

"Soon we even plan on providing you with biking directions to take advantage of this new data," he said.

Google has also implemented a better way for users to report map problems, such as changed street names. Right-clicking on Google Maps now includes a "Report a problem" drop-down menu selection that brings up a form users can use to tell Google engineers about inaccuracies. The form includes an option to receive an e-mail once Google has dealt with the problem, which the company says it will try to do within a month.

Google is also warning developers that its Maps API now includes the new data, which may affect applications that use the API.

"If you're using client-side geocoding in the browser, your applications will automatically start using the new data," said Google engineer Michael Weiss-Malik in a blog post. "If you've been using the HTTP geocoder and caching any retrieved data, you should re-geocode with the new data as soon as possible."

InformationWeek Analytics has published a guide to the Open Government Directive and what it means for federal CIOs. Download the report here (registration required).

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