How The Auto Industry Is Influencing Future Mapping Tech

And learning ahead of the curve


The automotive industry has long touted the safety features of their vehicles to attract customers and satisfy regulators. Drivers express frustrations at careless drivers and crashes, traffic standstills and getting lost or missing turns or highway exits. Passengers seek to work, play and communicate with wireless and digital devices while on the road.

As car makers seek to satisfy the wants and needs of drivers, passengers, and the governments, they have influenced the type and reach of mapping technologies.


Potential rises in demand for self-driven, or autonomous, vehicles may spur technological advances in maps and navigation systems. By 2025, the self-driving market could reach $42 billion dollars. These cars may, by 2035, represent a quarter of worldwide automotive sales.

The increasing urbanization and aging may support these estimates. Within the next 25 years, an estimated nine billion people will call urban areas home. The self-driving vehicles present potential answers to crowded and jammed streets and freeways. Also, these cars hold the promise of increased mobility and access for the elderly to stores, doctors, families, and friends. Over 43 million residents in the United States are 65+, with 10,000 joining this group daily. While America is becoming more urbanized, the baby-boomers tend to reside in suburban or rural areas, where these residents tend to be isolated from health services and shopping.

For autonomous vehicle operation to work, the car must have more than maps or navigation systems that merely draw and label streets and other features. Instead, the mapping system must be able to detect, for example, curbs and lane markers hidden by fog, rain or snow, and the dimensions of travel lanes and parking spaces. Part of the real-time mapping for self-driving wheels is the fruit of LIDAR (laser-guided radar), radar, video and other sensors. This technology also creates three-dimensional images and the sharp, precise details needed for self-driven vehicles. The 3D highly-automatic maps of TomTom allows navigation beyond the sensor’s range.

While fully running cars on autopilot might be years away, automakers have used mapping technology for electronic safety features. For example, with lasers and sensors used in mapping, vehicles can increase or decrease cruising speeds to avoid following too closely. New models are offering electronic braking.

Maps and imaging are also deployed in defensive driving school online.

Moving Hotspots

Automakers have billed their new cars as wireless hotspots, using 4G and WiFi technology. General Motors reports that it has sold over two million vehicles with 4G in North America and Europe and expects that, by 2020, it will have 75% of its vehicle volume with connectivity. These figures correspond with greater demand of customers for connections to the Internet, social media and other pillars of the digital and wireless world while on the road. In 2014, 20% of customers were willing to change car makers for better connectivity; 37% of customers wanted it in 2015. The ranks of those who would pay a subscription fee to connect to 4G or wireless jumped from 21% in 2014 to 32% in 2015.

As hot spots on the pavement, vehicles and their on-board navigation systems can display features found on tablet and smartphone navigation apps. For example, Google's street-level images and aerial satellites can appear on 17-inch screens on Tesla vehicles. Nokia’s HERE mapping gets up-close in cities and on street-level as a driver gets to the destination; the helicopter mode affords digital mapping on highways. Further, drivers and passengers can download onto the car’s dashboard directions and maps for desired destinations.

Vehicles Talking to Each Other

The 3D and advanced mapping needed for self-driving vehicles is also key for allowing vehicles to talk to each other. The 'V2V' concept involves vehicles sharing information, such as lanes of travel, weather and road conditions, impeding traffic jams and construction sites along streets and highways. This sharing can warn drivers of the approach and nearby presence of vehicles hidden or obstructed by hills, buildings, blinding sunlight and other conditions.

V2V technology may improve the efficiency of vehicles, including commercial vehicles. With the ability to warn drivers of potential hazards, V2V can reduce following distances and the fuel costs of trucking and fleet companies by ten cents on the dollar.

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