Apple has filed for a patent titled “Humanized Navigation Instructions for Mapping Applications.” It’s exactly what it sounds like, nixing voice prompts that say, “turn right in 600 feet” to “make the next right after the McDonalds.” And it could explain its fleet of sensor-laden minivans.

The patent, filed in 2013 and approved last week, details how Apple plans to make navigation instructions more like your friend telling you where to go, including using landmarks and providing the driver with more easily understood directions.

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Say you’re in a parking garage. It will use latitude, longitude, and altitude, along with publicly available data sources (think a map database or building floor plan) to determine where you’re located and then direct you to the nearest landmark or intersection to start your route.

From the patent:

...if the user is currently in a mall parking lot, the user can be instructed to find an exit relative to a landmark and then be provided with turn-by-turn guidance. For example, “exit the parking lot near AppleBees® restaurant and then turn right towards Golden Ave.” Another example instruction could be “head north towards the AMC® cinema.”

Freeway exits would be handled well ahead of time and even use traffic data – both real-time and historical – to tell the driver to merge to the right if the exit ramp is backed up (“start merging now to make your exit in one mile”).

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Re-routing would read out how much longer it will take or even how much extra fuel is consumed, while directions into parking lots would be more granular – it wouldn’t just prompt them to “turn into the parking lot” but say, “take the second entry into the mall.”

When the driver gets close to their destination, instead of saying that it’s 500 feet ahead on the right, the system would say it’s the red building with the fountain in front or it’s in the strip mall, two doors down from the OfficeMax.

The patent’s approval comes as Apple continues to send Chrysler minivans outfitted with an array of cameras, LIDAR, and sensors in what’s assumed to bring its Maps app up to parity with its competitors at Google, and this is a pretty good indication of what Apple plans to do with all that data.

Thanks to Reilly B. for the tip