High-definition maps take automated driving to the next level

December 05, 2018 // By Tomaso Grossi, TomTom, and Christian Hering, Elektrobit
In automated driving, vehicles need to anticipate the road beyond the range of their basic sensors. Digital high-precision maps provide such information in great detail. However, to make these data available for the auto-driving systems, it takes the right software.

For a safe and comfortable experience, automated and autonomous vehicles need to accurately perceive, understand and navigate their environment. They also need to anticipate the road ahead to prepare for unexpected events ahead of time – events beyond the range of the vehicle’s sensors. Today’s sensors - ultrasound, radars and cameras -  all have a relatively short range and have performance issues in different weather conditions. To address these issues, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as Highway Pilot and Predictive Powertrain Control already use digital maps today.

The arrival of automated and autonomous vehicles will require a new level of accuracy and detail obtained through digital, high-definition (HD) maps, as these advanced vehicles need precise information to maneuver through highly complex environments. Consider a highway ramp or a busy intersection, where there is absolutely no room for error. Functions like  highway pilot require highly precise information about the calculated route and path, the centimeter accurate digitalization of lanes, guardrails, intersection areas  and more in order to work safely and smoothly. HD maps can provide this high level of precision.

In short, HD maps provide a realistic representation of the road through information such as lane model, road geometry and traffic signs. They make automated and autonomous vehicles location-aware, positioning them on the road with an accuracy of a few centimeters. They also provide a frame of reference to help the vehicle’s sensors make sense of the surrounding environment. Not only that, they also support the vehicle in planning its path and driving maneuvers by confirming the information relevant for lane changes or highway merges.

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