Is Apple Planning A Street View Upgrade For Its Map App?

Unconfirmed sighting of what may or may not be an Apple mapping van. (YouTube)

Unconfirmed sighting of what may or may not be an Apple mapping van in Brooklyn, NY (YouTube)

Because it’s not the easiest thing to drive around town with cameras strapped all over a car and not arouse some kind of attention, a new rumor has Apple embarking on its own street view mission, similar to the feature on Google Maps.

Although we’re sure there are plenty of technological get-ups popping up around town, this one has people buzzing due to the equipment used: According to the Guardian, a van equipped with 12 cameras and a lidar sensor (which scans the environment using a spinning laser) attached to the roof has been cruising San Francisco.

A local blog called Claycord News & Talk was the first to spot the unmarked vehicle in San Francisco this week. By tracing the license plate, it’s been confirmed that the vehicle has been leased to Apple, which set off the rumor that the company is readying a big update to its map apps for iPhone and iPad that could be something like the street view Google uses.

That blog notes in an update that a similar vehicle has been spotted in Brooklyn and captured on video, which happens to be where 1/6 of the Consumerist staff resides and will thus be on the lookout. It’s unclear whether that vehicle was also leased by Apple.

The next update to iOS is expected this summer, which is when the new feature would likely be included. But that would mean a big chunk of change for Apple and a fleet of cars to capture all the highways and byways needed for such a thing, so don’t hold your breath waiting for that function just yet.

If it does release its own street view capability, that could perhaps go a long way toward winning back users who fled in the wake of Apple’s first attempt at mapping, which was notoriously buggy and often led people places they didn’t want to go.

UPDATE with PICS/VIDEO: The Mystery Van Driving Around Claycord [Claycord News & Talk]
Apple camera car on San Francisco streets leads to ‘street view’ speculation [The Guardian]