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If you extract the coordinates of a specific position in OSM and enter them in Google Maps, you can notice a slight difference in position (about 3 meters).

What causes this difference and what's the purpose behind it?

asked 10 Apr '16, 02:55

applemano's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 10 Apr '16, 11:25

aseerel4c26's gravatar image

aseerel4c26 ♦

If Google and the OSM contributor were both using GPS there could well be a 3 metre margin of error as this in inherent in civilian grade GPS. As a geocacher I am familiar with this distance and the American cachers' remarks about 10 feet which is the same thing.

With aerial or satellite photos the camera is rarely directly overhead in which case the transformation of the photo onto the ground will incorporate a level of "best guess". I would be distrustful of an aerial photo if buildings seem to be "leaning" at a steep angle.

(21 Jul '23, 19:07) and1969

There could be many reasons but the most likely is that your point of reference in OSM has a slight offset that was not taken into account by the person who mapped the object, especially if she used Bing imagery to help place it. The absolute location of Bing imagery varies quite a bit depending on the part of the world you're in, the nearness of hills or significant slopes. Also, there's a definite limit to the accuracy of consumer level GPS devices, typically 3-5 meters. And that accuracy can be decreased by sloping terrain, nearby buildings, etc..

Of course, Google isn't perfect either. The imagery they use is affected by terrain, slope, etc., just as is Bing imagery.

Cheers, Dave

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answered 10 Apr '16, 03:10

AlaskaDave's gravatar image

accept rate: 16%

Here is an OSM article that describes imagery and offset/alignment:

(19 Jul '23, 18:28) DanielDoherty

The question is not answerable in a reasonable fashion without knowing which region you are talking about, and a specific example would be even better.

Most of the time OSM and google data is derived from very different sources and therefore you would not expect total agreement in any case.

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answered 10 Apr '16, 12:24

SimonPoole's gravatar image

SimonPoole ♦
accept rate: 18%

edited 10 Apr '16, 12:29

In order to correct the distortions in an aerial photograph, you have to know the exact height of the camera above every part of the ground, which is difficult because the ground is not flat. Topographical information of the required accuracy is expensive to create and is seldom published freely. Consequently published imagery can be in error by a few metres. A single GPS trace can easily be in error by a similar amount, but the average of several GPS traces, preferably taken at different times, probably represents the most accurate information available to most OSM contributors in most locations.

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answered 10 Apr '16, 11:49

Madryn's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%


The main difference between these two services is that every edit you make to OSM is owned by you and the community, while every change you make to Google Maps… will be owned by Google. The OSM community is what makes the project so special.

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answered 19 May '20, 06:23

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Smith Hennry
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question asked: 10 Apr '16, 02:55

question was seen: 7,979 times

last updated: 21 Jul '23, 19:07

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum