Autonomous Vehicles Won’t Revolutionize Maps

Robert acknowledges a good point by his interlocutor, Ben Dover.

Imagining the Future of Autonomy

Assuming I’m Wrong (and I Often Am)…

  • I don’t need a perfectly detailed 1:1 map of the world in order to drive. In fact, I don’t need a map at all. Just based on road signs and a basic understanding of geography, I can navigate pretty well even over long distances.
  • Autonomous vehicles, if they reach parity with humans, will at least have the same level of agency and competence when navigating. They may augment that ability with better, faster, further-reaching data to achieve better-than-human results. But if the 5G connection gets interrupted and they’re on their own…they should be able to keep functioning at a reasonable level.
  • Mapping the world in low definition is a hard enough task that no one has done it exhaustively yet. And for the groups like Google and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) that have tried, their annual budget is in the billions of dollars. It’s just not logistically feasible to get high definition data of everywhere on earth all the time updated regularly.
  • Therefore, as the technology behind autonomous navigation improves, I would expect car makers to focus their differentiation on directly-observed, in-car navigation systems supplemented by outsourced map data of varying levels of fidelity.
  • By Tesla’s very own admission, they’re focusing on a “vision-based” approach to navigation and counter-positioning themselves against Waymo, who they say is taking a “map-based” approach. Robert Scoble-if you’re reading this-watch the video linked in the prior sentence.

The Finish Line

Comedic relief at Umbra. Writing about maps and the people that make them. For inquiries: jrmorrison.jrm [at] gmail [dot] com

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Joe Morrison

Joe Morrison

Comedic relief at Umbra. Writing about maps and the people that make them. For inquiries: jrmorrison.jrm [at] gmail [dot] com

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