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Is cloud mapping the navigation system of the future?

By raccars Published

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Dubbed the next step in navigation system development, just what is cloud mapping?

Satellite navigation systems have had a mixed effect upon the way in which we drive and use our cars. On the one hand they give confidence to nervous drivers and avoid that perilous shuffle from map to windscreen when trying to find your way around somewhere new.

On the other hand, everyone knows that sinking feeling when you've followed your sat nav's instructions and ended up at a dead end in a dodgy industrial estate rather than outside the smart new wine bar, the address of which you thought you had so carefully and accurately entered. Furthermore, there is concern that excessive reliance upon navigation systems is eroding people's ability to find their way around independently.

Fortunately the automotive industry never runs out of ideas for new technology and a new form of navigation system is on the way. January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is always a hive of interesting new ideas and this year introduced the HD Live Map programme by HERE, a cloud-based mapping service that is apparently the most advanced form of this technology yet seen. And we don't mean the use of the ubiquitous grey clouds that adorn Britain's skies.

Automotive connectivity is the big buzzword in motoring technology at the moment, much of which will be cloud-based. Clearly, there are applications for this system with autonomous driving mapping data but the same information is useful to any driver using any navigation system in any car.

The HD Live Map system gathers real time data about the road network via sensors fitted to cars and makes this information available to other vehicles using the same programme via the cloud. For example, a vehicle entering a roadworks zone can relay that fact to cars following it, allowing the driver or the autonomous driving technology to adapt speed and driving behaviour accordingly.

Any cloud-connected vehicles have access to the same real time data. The advantage of the cloud storage system over traditional satellite navigation systems is its constant connectivity. Rather than periodic, manually operated updates, the cloud is constantly being updated with the freshest information about the road network.

Tesla Autopilot

Tesla's Autopilot system has already experimented with cloud-based mapping in its Model S and Model X. All Teslas using the system not only take information from it but also provide information to the cloud; data which is then used by the entire Tesla network. This means that a Tesla Model S driving along a Californian highway has access to the same up-to-the minute navigation information about that road as a Model X on the M25 in the UK and vice versa.

Google navigation system

Apart from the HERE and Tesla systems, Google uses cloud technology for its autonomous driving vehicles, regularly seen on trial in California. Collectively Google's test vehicles traverse about three million miles per day and the information they collect about the roads around them means that a huge volume of extremely accurate mapping data is being uploaded to cloud-based storage, from where it can be made available to other users.

The advantage of the cloud storage system over traditional satellite navigation systems is its constant connectivity. Rather than periodic, manually operated updates, the cloud is constantly being updated with the freshest information about the road network.

HERE and HD Live Map

HERE is a mapping company formerly owned by Nokia and purchased by Audi, BMW and Daimler in December 2015. The rival car makers came together in part to prevent Apple and Google from gaining access to the mapping system used by their cars, but also because of the role that cloud navigation will play in autonomous driving. HERE will be an open resource for ten million cars, with usage of the system remaining confidential.

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