More sensors mean more detail. As MoMa van sensors evolve, TomTom can add more detail and accuracy to maps.
MoMa cars are also equipped with LiDAR, a sensor array that collects 700,000 data points every second and allows a three-dimensional point map of the world to be constructed with millimeter accuracy. With this, maps can feature more detail on distance and positioning of road objects such as signs, roundabouts and traffic islands, than what a camera alone can provide.
Gyroscopes now operate, not just in X and Y axes but also, with a Z axis. This means that MoMa cars can now map the gradient and curvature of roads. This tech underpins the intelligent cruise control systems used in haulage trucks.
However, there is a new class of sensor that’s helping mobile mappers work more efficiently, and it’s not found in MoMa cars.
What’s next for Mobile Mapping
There are millions of vehicles and devices around the world that use TomTom technologies – they could be in-car navigation and traffic systems, personal navigation devices or smartphone apps. Each of these has the power to privately and securely ping data about where it is and what road it’s on to the company. The data gathered from these sources are called sensor derived observations, or SDOs for short.
In any 24-hour period, TomTom receives enough data to remap the world’s major cities and roads many times over. That’s not something that needs doing every day, however, these observations can be used to identify new roads or critical changes to infrastructure.
As Miksa explains, in some instances TomTom “will update based on the SDO and will perform quality checks.” When quality checks are needed, that’s when the MoMa van is deployed.
In these instances, the MoMa van will investigate the infrastructure that the SDOs suggest is new, mapping the area in detail. It will also gather data the SDOs can’t, such as gradient, signage and road markings. This can then be added to the TomTom map and issued as part of its weekly update.
“They [the SDOs] are a reference,” Miksa says. “It is where we could benchmark with the MoMa van.”
With millions of sensors able to inform map changes, it might sound like the days of MoMa vans are numbered, but Miksa is quite adamant that won’t be the case. “It’s all about the data,” and the reliability of that data, he says.
Indeed, to achieve its goal of making maps at least 95% accurate, TomTom will need MoMa vans for a long time to come.
The trusted MoMa van is the best tool to validate what is being witnessed in the real world, with the required level of detail.
The next chapter
Speaking to Miksa and Lechowicz, it’s clear that, MoMa vans will be busy over the next 20 years. They won’t be decommissioned as other data sources become more common. Their role is likely to shift from a primary source of map data to one that verifies, validates and qualifies the truth of other sources.
The task that MoMa vans perform for TomTom is too specialized for them to be usurped by other sensors just yet.
Throughout conversation with Miksa and Lechowicz, they make their work sound matter of fact, but the task these vehicles have undertaken can’t be understated. And on their 20th anniversary, their contribution is certainly something to be celebrated.
Over the past two decades, TomTom’s MoMa vans have been responsible for mapping most of the built world with over 95% accuracy and doing it all to within two centimeters of detail.
The MoMa vans have covered millions of kilometers, collected many thousands of terabytes of data and interpreted 100 million types of road sign, so that drivers are provided with the most accurate maps possible and cars that get safer every year.