Apple is to roll out a fleet of camera-laden vehicles across the UK and Ireland this summer to capture Street View-style images for its Maps application.
The vehicles will be driving around dozens of towns and cities across the Midlands and southern England between 15 and 30 June, as well as parts of Ireland and the US. The images and data they capture will likely be used in Apple's Maps application, which does not currently have a view from street level to rival Google.
Apple provided a brief explanation of what it's vehicles will be doing, and how it intends to protect the privacy of anyone they photograph. "Apple is driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates."
The iPhone maker added: "We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data. For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication."
The vehicles will be photographing in Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey, Birmingham, Solihull, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, as well as large areas of Greater London, including the City. Apple will also be mapping Dublin in Ireland, as well as California, Florida, Hawaii, New York, Texas and other US states.
Apple's plans come after mysterious vans registered to the company were spotted driving around San Francisco with sensors and camera equipment on their roofs. At the time it was thought these were part of Apple's rumoured 'Project Titan' autonomous car development, but now this does not seem to be the case. However, company insiders still claim Apple is working on producing a self-driving car to rival Google by 2020.
After parting ways with Google, Apple's Maps app for iOS got off to a difficult start in 2012. Whole towns were in the wrong place, 3D aerial images of buildings resembled a landscape which had melted, and huge areas were covered in blankets of cloud, making satellite imagery pointless.
The situation was so bad that CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology to customers, suggesting they use Google Maps instead until the problems were fixed. iOS executive Scott Forstall was outed from the company, allegedly for failing to add his name to the apology.
Apple has worked to improve Maps since, and on 8 June announced that when iOS 9 arrives in the autumn its Maps app will include public transit directions, and other feature lost when Google stopped providing Apple with its mapping services.