Geospatial lobbying group: Google Maps are 'cartoons'

The Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors--an overly long name whose only benefit is that its acronym is MAPPS--set up shop in they foyer of Rayburn House Office Building this week to tout the quality of the geospatial data collected by its member companies.

Steve Phipps, director of federal programs for Woolpert, a geospatial company in Ohio, told me that there's a misconception that Google Maps is sufficient for engineering uses.

"Google maps is really inaccurate," he said. "You can't do engineering with that. It's a cartoon."

He pointed to a highly detailed satellite view of a city that could zoom in to 6-inch pixel resolution.

"This is accurate mapping," he said. "This is what you use to make actual infrastructure happen."

How can weather experts predict the damage of the next hurricane without accurate coastal maps? he asked. And how can the transportation department plan new highway systems without 3-D maps of the local terrain?

MAPPS is specifically lobbying on four bills.

--The Making America Prosperous Act --again, with the convenient acronym of MAP--would provide a centralized approach to coordinating imagery use between agencies, rather than the ad hoc programs that result in redundancy.

--The Digital Coast Act would authorize a program within NOAA to make a precise map of the country's coast-line that can be used for years to come.

--The Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act would create a central database containing all federally owned real estate.

--The Freedom for Government Competition Act would open up geospatial contracts to more private firms, reversing the trend of agencies building their own capacities to map, survey and chart the nation's topography.