Much of the buzz about autonomous vehicles surrounds the technology needed to keep the car in its lane and from hitting other vehicles, or worse, pedestrians.
However, knowing where it’s going may be just as important so having up-to-date maps is critical the success of those vehicles.
Bosch and GPS-maker TomTom are pairing up to produce the highly detailed maps that will be needed for autonomous or semi-autonomous driving in the near future.
For those who thought navigation systems were already using these types of maps, think again. The two differ in the level of accuracy, which is now correct to the decimeter. The other difference is the layering of maps to create a comprehensive program.
The traditional base navigation layer is used to calculate routes from A to B, including the sequence of roads to be driven. The localization layer uses a novel-positioning concept providing highly accurate map data, which the automated vehicle uses to accurately calculate its position within a lane.
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To do this, the vehicle compares its sensed environment with the corresponding information in the localization layer. In this way, the vehicle can accurately define its position relative to the road and its surroundings.
On top of the localization layer, the planning layer contains not only attributes such as lane divider types, traffic signs, speed limits, etc., but also 3D information about road geometry, including curves and slopes. With the help of this very detailed lane information, the automated vehicle can decide things such as when and how to change lane.
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Think of the difference between current maps and the new autonomous-vehicle-friendly maps as the difference between the standard tube television and the new curved-screen 4K high-definition televisions. In fact, the maps are checked using the Tesla Model S and its hi-def, iPad-like touch screen.
The companies began the process in 2013 and are mapping all the roads in Germany to start. The program will be expanded to cover all of Europe and North America in the near future.
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“By the end of 2015, we want to have new high-precision maps for automated driving for all freeways and freeway-like roads in Germany,” said Jan Maarten de Vries, vice president, Automotive at TomTom.