Autonomous driving relies on us mastering the map

16th Mar 2017
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The future of autonomous driving is very much in our hands, and during a session at SXSW last week, I teamed up with Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, to discuss the steps required to achieve our autonomous future, and how we can take them.

The rich promise of autonomous driving is often discussed, with benefits from cheaper car insurance, to shorter journey times being touted. The question, however, is how do we get there? How do we get to a place where these benefits aren’t just discussed, but realized?

On stage at SXSW, there was agreement that to achieve this, mastering the map is essential. Highly accurate, efficient location information is key to unlocking the potential of the automotive future we are dreaming of, with maps no longer a means to get you from A to B, but a driver of next-generation connected services.

Live in HD

We understand the vital part maps have to play in autonomous vehicles. The New York Times recently explained how maps are an “equally critical piece of the puzzle” as the autonomous vehicles’ physical sensors.

Unlike onboard cameras and radars, however, maps can also “see around the corner”. They can know about icy roads and accidents along the route, prevent you from getting stuck in the traffic jam ahead, and help you find that last free parking spot downtown.

First, though, we need to remap the world in 3D, as autonomous cars need to be able to see all around them if they are to navigate the streets safely and efficiently. This, as you can imagine, is not a small task, and HERE is currently measuring more than 30,000 street miles each week down to one-inch precision and up to a height of 130 feet, all over the world.

To enable autonomous driving, maps not only need to be very accurate, they also need to be extremely up-to-date. In other words, we need more than just a few sources for mapping the world.

Because vehicles collect data through their sensors on every mile they drive, they can continuously update our maps to share the latest information with others. This is exactly what Audi, BMW and Daimler are doing: they cluster certain components, even as competitors, to drive innovation.

Indeed, while creating highly precise maps is an extraordinarily exciting field, it is also one of the most complex.

Maps for virtual roads

As we touched upon during our discussion at the event, we are only skimming the surface of what we can do.

With the HERE Open Location Platform we’re becoming the leading destination for location services, supporting everything from smartphone apps to autonomous vehicles to smart cities and intelligent transportation systems.

By making sense of several data sources, we can evolve from building way finders for cars, to creating a digital representation of the physical world and solutions for devices like drones that can move in all directions.

We’ll leave you to get excited, while we master the map to make all this possible.

Today, I spoke at Bosch Connected World 2017 to discuss just how vital data and digitization are to this brave new autonomous world, and how they may just be the key to making driving obsolete. I’ll be very happy to share those thoughts with you in tomorrow’s post.