How to find Missing Roads in OSM with GPS data

Posted by mvexel on 30 September 2015 in English (English)

New roads are built and opened for traffic around the world every single day. In many places, these are added to OSM by watchful mappers right away. Not everywhere though. There are still many places where there are few local mappers, and new construction goes unseen for a while. Available aerial imagery can be pretty outdated, so armchair mappers are not always able to help out either.


Lots of people drive on these new roads from day 1. And we're in luck - a bunch of them are usually Scout users :) This means that they contribute GPS traces of the missing roads to us. Lots. Of. Traces. Enough for us to come up with a good guess about where new roads might be that are not on OSM yet.

We have done just that! I am excited to announce the Missing Roads project, opening up the aggregated, processed GPS data pointing at missing roads as a convenient JOSM plugin.


Here's how it works. First you download the Missing Roads plugin from right within JOSM. After a restart, you will notice an extra Missing Roads layer. It looks like small and big dots if you're zoomed out, and a grid with point clouds if you're zoomed in.


You will notice different color grid cells and point clouds once you're zoomed further in. The grid colors indicate whether someone has marked that cell as completed or invalid. You can do that from within the plugin. If you find tiles that are done or not actually missing roads, please mark them and help your fellow mappers out.

One thing we noticed pretty soon once we started digging into the results is that lots of people leave Scout on when they're looking for parking. This means that lots of 'results' are actually people driving around parking lots. Interesting, but not as interesting as real new roads. So you can filter those out. We distinguish between the two types based mostly on average speed, so it's not always spot on. But it helps.


Finally, we also have a web map where you can easily browse and explore the data, and check for unfinished cells in your region. It links back to


This is version 1. Let us know what you think. How we can improve the plugin and the web app. Other ways you would like to see this data exposed. Email me at or talk to me directly on OSM IRC channels, skype (mvexel) or twitter. There's also a little feedback box in the web app where you can submit ideas.

Have fun!

(Source of historic photo: Flickr Commons)

Comment from Alan Bragg on 30 September 2015 at 21:26

Worked for me after I found "MissingRoads Ctrl F3" in the "Windows" menu. The road was a driveway to the back of a warehouse. Great idea, I'll be checking my turf.

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Comment from a6y on 1 October 2015 at 01:27

Nice! What kinds of cars use Scout mainly? In my area, most of the roads it detects are dirt tracks, which seems kind of strange.

A few minor suggestions about the webmap:

  • It would be nice if the web map would remember the map location (in the URL hash), so that reloading would take you back to the same map location.
  • The heatmap dots are too big at low zoom (whole world) levels, which makes it hard to see the map.
  • Clicking on the dots should zoom in to that spot.
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Comment from ksetdekov on 1 October 2015 at 08:13

How can I mark tiles as being solved or invalid? There is no way to do it currently.

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Comment from Richard on 1 October 2015 at 11:20

Looks good. Could you remove the 'editor=id#' from the first edit button, and change the text to "Edit on", so that it chooses the user's default editor (usually iD, but may be P2 in case of user's choice or IE)?

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Comment from corfede on 1 October 2015 at 12:12

Nice tool! I've immediately found 2 missing highways. @ksetdekov you have to activate MissingRoads layer --> select the blue tile by clicking on it --> choose the option (Solved, Invalid, etc.) in the MissingRoads panel.

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Comment from mvexel on 1 October 2015 at 15:37

Hey folks - thanks for all your comments so far! I am taking all your suggestions back to the team. I'll go into a little more detail on how to use the web tool and JOSM plugin in a follow up diary entry. For now: you can't change the status of the tiles in the web app. That is for viewing only. In JOSM, the missing roads layer needs to be the active layer and the missing roads panel needs to be visible. Then, if you select a tile, you have the option of marking it as solved (the button with the lock on it) or invalid (the button with the exclamation mark on it) in the missing roads panel.

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Comment from naoliv on 1 October 2015 at 18:44

Can't you create one layer using GPs traces from OSM?

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Comment from mvexel on 1 October 2015 at 19:03

naoliv - this was actually suggested in the feedback forum also - I'll have a look to see how feasible that is.

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Comment from carciofo on 2 October 2015 at 10:58

Cool! One thing I noticed is that it doesn't seem to be taking into account pedestrian areas, as can be seen here. These former runways at [Tempelhof Park](] (Berlin) are used today as recreational surfaces and are mapped with a way along the centerline (highway=footway) and a closed way circumscribing the entire surface (highway=footway, area=yes). The GPS tracks are likely a bit farther from the centerline way than the tool's threshold, so it suggests there may be a way there. In this case (and probably others elsewhere) it'd be good to check for pedestrian areas.

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Comment from stephan75 on 2 October 2015 at 13:32

Hello Martijn,

really nice work!! Will try deeper when enough time ;-)

What about a mentioning this service / plugin in the OSM wiki?

Maybe at Quality Assurance or similar?

Or did I miss something that there is already an entry about this Missing Road Tool?

Greets, Stephan

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Comment from gorn on 4 October 2015 at 21:50

Nice job :)

Funny observation - I have randomly mapper some places in CZ and DE and all of them were some sort of insustrial areas with lot of dirt foads - mostly land-fills or mines. It seems that drivers driving dump cars like to use OSM :)

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Comment from Paul Johnson on 5 October 2015 at 22:21

I would encourage users mapping against this to MAP the dirt tracks and what not that are getting traffic detected, since it is an indication that people are able to traverse it, rather than marking those as invalid.

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Comment from slint on 6 October 2015 at 12:34

Would be nice to also have GPS tracks from Strava and Mapillary included

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Comment from mvexel on 6 October 2015 at 15:18

gorn -- yes, interesting eh? You would think dump truck drivers would know how to get to the landfill :)

slint -- That is an interesting idea and we are looking at incorporating more trace data.

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Comment from L├╝beck on 7 October 2015 at 13:25

hi !

it would be nice to have a permalink vor the current box.

regards Jan

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Comment from mvexel on 7 October 2015 at 16:51

Jan - working on that! Wir machen das!

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Comment from James Michael DuPont on 8 October 2015 at 05:53

Great job! thank you!

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Comment from Swen Wacker on 12 October 2015 at 08:41

Thank you for this great Projekt,

One Question Here ( lacked the complete road. (in north-south direction). The road has now been entered. What I would like to know: The map shows only a small portion of the missing street with traffic data. I would have expected that the skobbler data show the entire course of the missing street. Do you show only selected parts of missing roads?

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Comment from Eric Fischer on 26 November 2015 at 00:34

This is great. Is there a tile URL to see the GPS tracks while editing in case it isn't clear from the aerial?

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