Mapping out our future—one pixel at a time!

The NMA Foundation presents The Car of the Future weekly feature:

Building accurate 3D maps of highways, roads, streets and their surrounding infrastructure has to be one of the more complex challenges for connected/driverless car makers. This key piece of the puzzle may not get as much attention as other flashier elements, but 3D road maps are the heart and soul of making this autonomous car future real.

Often referred to as HD maps, they are not the kind of maps humans normally look at but for autonomous vehicles (AVs) they are, at least for now, essential.  HD/3D maps carve out the space in a way for a vehicle’s sensors to read. Some HD/3D maps will need to be updated daily (busy city streets) and we are talking centimeter increments that includes indications of lane markings, street signs, traffic signals, potholes and curb height. The maps will allow an AV to be guided when the road cannot even be seen such as in a snowstorm or when a truck is blocking a traffic signal. This is one of the biggest safety concerns for AVs—how can they see when the road is blocked.

The race to build these HD/3D maps for AVs is a billion dollar business. Google, Uber, and Ford are working on their own maps. Other automakers though such as General Motors and Volkswagen plan to rely on third party mapmakers.

One company, Mobileye (recently purchased for $15 billion by Intel) reached an agreement with Volkswagen, BMW and Nissan. Mobileye spokesperson Dan Galves stated recently, “The goal is to pool together mapping data from car manufacturers to generate as much scale as possible.”

A number of HD/3D mapping startups such as DeepMap, Civil Maps, MapBox, Carmera have recently made the news with their announcements of collaborations or opening up their platforms for all to use.

Google, of course, is the leader when it comes to HD/3D mapping with their history products such as Street View and Google Earth as well as their current work on AVs.

Creating these maps is arduous for any company and containing all the data needed to create these maps is an ongoing challenge. Some experts though are wondering if all this mapping is actually going to make a difference. AVs may eventually be smart enough with deep learning technology to not even rely on maps anymore.

In the meantime, our road infrastructure continues to be mapped one pixel at a time.

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The NMA Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting your interests as a motorist and citizen through the multi-faceted approach of research, education, and litigation.  The Foundation is able to offer this assistance through tax-deductible contributions. 

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If you are interested in learning more about the Car of the Future check out the following NMA resources:

NMA Driving News Feed—Over 50 Car of the Future stories are placed each month in the NMA Driving News—the go-to source for all your driving news information from around the country.

NMA’s Flipboard Magazine called Car of the Future—Over 50 stories are placed each month in this magazine devoted to the Car of the Future.  Stories featured include future car politics, industry news and thought pieces.

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Driverless Cars

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Flying Cars

Future of the Motorcycle

Hybrid Cars

Hydrogen Cars

Solar-Powered Cars

If you have an interesting story about the Car of the Future, please feel free to send us a link to the NMA Email address

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