As human drivers, we are accustomed to navigation or mapping tools occasionally missing the mark of our destination by a few feet or sending us down a wrong path due to construction closures. We have the ability to adjust our driving accordingly. For autonomous vehicles, however, that is not good enough.
Earlier in January, experts gathered at the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association’s research center to discuss how developments in mapping and location technology will enhance safety and can enable driverless cars to be truly autonomous.
“Autonomous cars are coming. But if they’re going to be truly safe, the computers inside the car need to know exactly where they are–to the centimeter and to the nanosecond,” said Rob Hranac of Swift Navigation. “That’s our mission–to enable autonomous vehicles,” he said.
At CES 2017, the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas in January, Hyundai unveiled the Ioniq, self-driving car prototype, featuring a highly accurate GPS that helps the vehicle to stay on course within 50 centimeters (19 inches).The Ioniq achieves this level of accuracy by using three LiDAR sensors built into its front bumper and compares where the car is with where it should be on the map.
Last year, Ford announced that it was using a similar system in its autonomous vehicles to help them navigate in low-visibility situations affected by snowy conditions.
“It’s one thing for a car to drive itself in perfect weather,” said Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles. “It’s quite another to do so when the car’s sensors can’t see the road because it’s covered in snow. Weather isn’t perfect, and that’s why we’re testing autonomous vehicles in wintry conditions – for the roughly 70 percent of U.S. residents who live in snowy regions.”
Other car and technology companies are looking to crowd-sourced maps for more accurate navigation tools for self-driving vehicles. BMW, Intel, Mobileye and Here have partnered in a project that will harness daily camera images from millions of vehicles and develop a map that can be updated daily.
It’s obvious that self-driving cars are here to stay and that 2017 will be the year for rapid development of autonomous-vehicle technology. Leaders in the insurance industry should stay tuned.