Photo above courtesy of CARMERA
For a driver trying to find her way to an unfamiliar address, a GPS system that's accurate to within a few meters is considered pretty good. But when you take the human out of the equation and cars are driving themselves, navigating will require much more precise, high-definition maps, with accuracy measured in centimeters.
Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development Inc., known as TRI-AD, announced this week that, working with various partners, it had completed proofs of concept that show how high-definition maps of surface roads can be created with a relative accuracy of less than 50 centimeters, about one and a half feet.
"We got a step closer to a future where automated driving becomes a safer and more accessible technology for all," Mandali Khalesi, the research institute's vice president of automated driving strategy and mapping, said in a statement.
One approach the institute explored is replacing data collected through traditional means, such as survey vehicles, with data from satellite images and from aftermarket dashcams mounted on vehicles.
TRI-AD collaborated with space tech company Maxar Technologies and NTT Data Corp. to produce maps with a relative accuracy of 25 centimeters. That's less than 10 inches. The project involved extracting map data from high-resolution commercial satellite images then removing and correcting "non-image pixels," such as shadows.
In another project, the institute collaborated with road-intelligence company Carmera Inc. to use dashboard-mounted cameras to detect road features such as lane markings, traffic signals and signs.
The institute also is exploring ways to apply data from its TRI-AD Automated Mapping Platform to other companies' software platforms. For instance, it worked with TomTom International and auto supplier Denso on a proof of concept in which TRI-AD vehicles were equipped with Denso sensors. The resulting observations were converted and corrected by TRI-AD's software for input into TomTom's cloud-based "transactional mapmaking platform."
Finally, the Toyota institute also collaborated with Here Technologies, the location company whose owners include Audi, BMW, Daimler and Intel.
The institute says its projects can result in faster updating of HD maps, lower costs and increased map coverage. It pointed out the need for better surface-street mapping in a February news release: "While the creation of highway HD maps is underway, this coverage represents less than 1 percent of the worldwide road network," the group said. "The next challenge is to create and maintain maps for urban areas and local roads that go beyond the highway road network."
— Leslie J. Allen