It’s Easter morning, 1900, and the weather is perfect. An intrepid pioneer of early photography sets up his tripod and gets a killer shot of 5th Avenue, New York City. There’s a sea of horses pulling carts as people rush to get to work. There’s one solitary car. A pioneer of automobiles.
Fast forward to Easter morning, 1913, 5th Avenue
, New York City. The camera angle is different, this time taken from the top deck of a tram. But the buildings are undeniably the same. This time, there is a sea of cars. There is one solitary horse and cart. The pioneers are now the mainstream adopters of a new form of transport.
That’s how fast technology can change an entire cityscape and the way people use it to change the way they live.
In the next few decades, we’ll be facing just such a change in the way we use the automobile. The cars will look similar, but not the same. They’ll undoubtedly be electric, or hydrogen-powered, but that won’t change the way they look. But peer closer and you’ll see a radical redesign.
The drivers’ seat has gone. There’s no steering wheel. The internal seating is different, and passengers now sit facing one another. Cars are multi-use so they are always full of people. Look at the street and you’ll see the traffic lights and road signage have gone.
Welcome to a new age – one of the autonomous vehicle. The change is likely to be as rapid as the New York rush hour over a century ago. But the good news, especially for us at TomTom, is they will still always need a map.
Why do HD maps matter?
So why do maps matter to an autonomous vehicle? Well, over a million people die
in traffic accidents every year on a global scale. It takes only one small incident featuring an autonomous vehicle to make headlines about the reliability of autonomous driving solutions.
For society to accept robot drivers, it’s clear the technology will have to be much safer than human drivers. High Definition (HD) maps are essential to providing enhanced safety by processing data from millions and millions of sources, including vehicles, in real-time to create instant maps.
By portraying maps in centimeter-scale and combining this with up-to-the-second traffic information, autonomous vehicles will be able to make instant decisions, far faster than a human would. In fact, once the technology does prove itself, it could lead to a ban on human drivers altogether.
HD maps are an essential component in autonomous vehicles. Maps are vital for filling in those blanks caused by high-rise buildings or around corners. Maps can complement sensors’ capabilities. They provide human drivers and autonomous cars with the gift of foresight to understand what is happening around them and on the road ahead.
HD maps are not limited to autonomous driving but can also be leveraged to fulfill an extensive portfolio of advanced driver assistance (ADAS) applications. These range from predictive powertrain control and highway pilot to adaptive cruise control