In terms of sheer geekiness, Navteq’s True mapping cars blow away Google’s Street View vehicles. Mostly, that’s because Navteq (owned by Nokia) is devoting its cars to deadly accurate mapmaking, instead of just taking pictures.

The tower of equipment on Navteq’s True cars includes several cameras to capture a full 360-degree view of the street, and a Lidar (light detection and ranging) array that uses 64 lasers to accurately scan the environment around the car. Ultimately, this gives Nokia and Navteq unprecedented 3D renderings of every street the cars drive through.

“If we want to build a truly 3D world that has very different data layers, with different information so that you can turn things on and off for the best consumer experience, you need to build a map that way,” Navteq’s product management director Sara Rossio told me during a ride-along yesterday.

The cars are driven by locals, who can make sure that Navteq has all of their city’s streets covered, and keeps the company up to date on road changes. All of the data collected through Navteq’s cars gets stored in a 10 terabyte bank of hard drives in their trunks (see pics below). Those drives are removed and scanned for processing at the end of every day, and the data eventually make its way into Navteq’s maps.

Navteq powers map data for Bing, Yahoo, and the vast majority of in-car GPS systems. Nokia also just released its Here map app on the iPhone, taking advantage of the weaknesses in Apple’s own mapping solution to score new fans.

Rossio wouldn’t comment specifically on her experience with Apple’s maps, but she noted, “Map making is a hard thing, and it takes really a hybrid approach of making sure that you have the right data and the right consumer experience, and that’s what Nokia is dedicated to.”

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