Accurate digital maps and navigation for areas in and around airports are incredibly important when it comes to making the airport experience stress-free, not just for passengers but also for the many people whose livelihood Is connected to airports, including ride-hailing drivers.

Unlike old-fashioned taxi ranks, airport authorities constantly change ride-hailing pickup points to manage congestion — making locating passengers a regular challenge that costs everyone precious time and money.

It’s surprising how often this can happen. The pick-up spot could be in a different location every week. The best solution is an up-to-date map that can keep up with these changes. TomTom was first alerted about the difficulties these constant changes caused by its ride-hailing partners as part of the company’s Community and Partnerships (C&P) programme.

Around the same time, the world was entering strict lockdowns to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and air travel was at an all-time low. Airports around the world saw this as an opportunity to ramp up outdoor construction projects, so they would be ready for the return of travelers. In all of this, TomTom spotted an opportunity too.

“It seemed like the perfect time for us to review the most-traveled airports in the world and make sure the maps were accurate and depicted the correct pickup and drop-off points for ride hailing,” says Shaundrea Kenyon, Director of the Community and Partnerships team in TomTom’s Maps unit.

“Doing this would help us better the user experience and reduce travel stress that we knew people would have coming out of the pandemic.”

The wide range of sources TomTom uses to stay abreast of changes that need to be mapped starts with its arsenal of sourcing staff and continues in the hands of highly trained GIS analysts and editors. These regional specialists possess language skills, knowledge of public and government data sources, and a roster of local contacts to help them keep on top of infrastructure changes in their region. They also have established relationships with airport authorities who understand the importance of map changes.

“When a new terminal is in the works, or ride-sharing pick-up points are being changed, they reach out to us and inform us of these developments. In airports like New York City’s LaGuardia or Boston’s Logan International Airport, we’ve even been on rides-along with them to make map updates,” says Dominic Danieli, who recently joined the Community and Partnerships team after over 20 years of working as a sourcing specialist for TomTom.

Unsurprisingly, the Internet serves as a great resource too. Airport authorities often post information directly to their official websites — from construction plans to interactive maps highlighting parking lot changes, new points of interest (POIs) etc. TomTom’s map editors also scrape other parts of the Internet — digital media, social networking websites among others – for leads they can use to make changes to the map.

Another reliable source is the vast catalogue of TomTom probe data, along with sensor-derived images from vehicles and devices using TomTom technology. When combined, all this data can help paint a highly accurate picture of where drivers are going, in which direction and at what average speed. When the position of a source shifts, or lots of cars start going down a road they weren’t before, or a previously one-way road becomes bi-directional (or vice versa), it’s usually an indicator of construction or changes in the road layout that need to be updated on the map

Add to that the constant feedback and updates on ground truth from ride-hailing partners, and TomTom mapmakers are in a pretty good place when it comes to keeping maps of airports up to date. When needed, they are even able to ensure that major changes can be reflected on the map ahead of time.

Source: TomTom