LAS VEGAS -- You've doubtless heard about "smart" maps that let cars locate and communicate with other vehicles, stoplights and anything else encountered on the street.
In theory, these maps will help self-driving cars figure out what's down the road, so the vehicles can safely plot their routes.
Although true driverless cars may be a decade away, the first smart maps likely will debut this year or next. Continental AG confirms that it has a contract to supply its eHorizon smart map to an unnamed customer for a model to be marketed in Europe, North America and Asia.
The map will use a modem and Internet connection to monitor stoplights, speed limits and other data from municipal street systems, said Zachary Bolton, a project engineer for Continental Automotive Systems.
The system will analyze your driving patterns to predict what you're likely to do next, so that it can calculate the most efficient speed. "It guesses where it thinks you will go -- even if you don't use your navigation system," Bolton said.
But eHorizon won't trade data about speed and location with other cars along the route, at least not at first, Bolton noted. That will come later, as automakers introduce vehicle-to-vehicle data links.
Smart maps entered the scene in 2013, when Mercedes-Benz piloted a driverless car along a 62-mile route in southern Germany with the help of a 3-D digital map developed by Nokia Here.
That same year, Continental announced partnerships with Here, Cisco and IBM to develop those maps for the mass market. Here's fleet of lidar-equipped cars is mapping roads, IBM's servers are analyzing real-time traffic data transmitted from cars and Cisco is handling data security.
Although Continental is not naming its first customer for eHorizon, three automakers -- Audi AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG -- agreed to acquire Continental's map-making partner Here in August.
Initially, the map's main selling point will be fuel economy.