Autonomous driving is introducing the biggest paradigm shift in automotive industry since society moved from horse power to “horsepower” more than 100 years ago. This time it is the driver being removed from the equation instead of the horse. The driver will become a (co-)passenger and the driving task will be transferred to machines.

Issue: Apr 2015


Mapping the way through the autonomous driving paradigm shift



by Jon Knox

Autonomous driving is introducing the biggest paradigm shift in automotive industry since society moved from horse power to “horsepower” more than 100 years ago. This time it is the driver being removed from the equation instead of the horse. The driver will become a (co-)passenger and the driving task will be transferred to machines.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Jan-Maarten de Vries, Vice President of Product Management & Marketing at TomTom Automotive where his company sees the opportunities for innovation in mobility. AI: Why is TomTom interested in automated driving? What will be TomTom’s role? De Vries: Automated driving is a very hot topic in the industry and we have been talking about driverless cars for some years now. With it comes the biggest paradigm shift in the automotive industry since we moved from powered by horses to “horsepower” more than 100 years ago. The driver will become a (co-)passenger and the driving task will be transferred to machines.

We believe that automated driving will disrupt the automotive industry as we know it in ways we have not seen before and cannot even completely conceive today. The automated driving arena will soon become a complex ecosystem of many different cross-industry players and technologies. At TomTom, we see this as a great opportunity to apply our product offering, bring innovative business models and consolidate our partnerships for the future. 

Driverless cars base their automated systems on several technologies. Fortunately for TomTom, highly precise maps and positioning technology are important technology pillars. During the last ten years we have developed and acquired core navigation technology that positions TomTom as a leading supplier in the automated driving arena, marked by for instance milestones such as TomTom digital map making (1990), Traffic technology (2006) and real-time maps (2014). We envision TomTom’s role as a fundamental enabler of vehicle automation: we will drive innovation of HAD technology and help OEMs/ Tier1’s engineer the driverless car.

AI: Besides enabling the driver to do “other things” rather than driving, do you foresee any other benefits derived from automated driving? De Vries: Yes and we believe these benefits will become more obvious as the car increasingly takes control of the different driving tasks from the driver. Automated vehicles have already proven their superior capabilities in scanning the environment, reacting faster and more adequately to hazards than human beings. Good evidence on how well automated cars can perform has recently been shown by racing car prototypes that have beaten track records held by some of the greatest professional racing pilots. Since it is estimated that around 90% of all road accidents are caused by driver errors, the impact on vehicle and road safety is predicted to be very significant. Moreover, vehicles will become more fuel efficient and friendlier for the environment. The driver will have more freedom and new car comfort features will greatly improve the user experience.

Over the longer term, the impact on society at large will at least be equally big. As new forms of transportation on demand will surge, mobility will become accessible by all, without the need to necessarily own a vehicle or to even have a driver’s license. The challenges facing cities today, such as peak hour traffic jams and parking scarcity will be greatly reduced as a result of optimized vehicle driving and better urban planning.  Car ownership will move from the individual to the collective which opens up new business models for the automotive industry.

AI: For many people automated vehicles are synonymous with sensors. Which technologies does TomTom bring to the car to enable automated driving? De Vries: Car sensors became the most common technology showcased and yet driverless cars rely on a far broader range of technology components. As OEMs/Tier1’s move towards the production of highly automated vehicles, they will first integrate different advanced driving assistance systems and create multiple redundancies between these systems to create solid and safe HAD systems.

Most people in the industry will recognize that a highly accurate, detailed and up-to-date map is one of the key products to bring HAD to reality. Our role in automated driving is to help our partners developing vehicles capable of answering to these simple yet complicated questions:

(i) Where exactly is the vehicle located? Our HAD maps provide highly detailed road context and allow precise positioning of the vehicle with decimetre precision;

(ii) What lies ahead? TomTom’s connected services such as traffic and advanced weather services provide live road status beyond the reach of vehicle sensors

(iii) Where can the car go? Navigation software and eHorizon calculate the most probable paths and guide the vehicle to its destination.

(iv) Finally, how can we get there comfortably? Based on driver speed profiles and local point speeds, we know exactly what the suitable speed and driving style are.

AI: In this context, can you tell us more about the partnership with VW and Bosch? De Vries: We are working together with these partners to co-develop innovative car features and bring them to market. The co-operation with Bosch is focused on ADAS to start with. Our navigation technology and maps are integrated into Bosch’s Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS). This partnership enables Bosch to develop more advanced applications including intelligent cruise control, upcoming curve alerts, and jam tail warnings, which are all critical components for car manufacturers developing the latest standards in automated driving systems. With Volkswagen Group Research we are joining forces to develop Highly Automated Driving (HAD) Systems. The goal of this research co-operation is to jointly develop HAD maps which are updated in near real-time using sensor data from cars. VW and TomTom combine their competencies by adding TomTom’s expertise in map content and mapmaking to Volkswagen’s know-how about the car as well as automated driving. We believe that in order to continuously innovate and accelerate the arrival of the automated car, automotive players will have to partner with third-party companies, combining strengths in R&D and product development initiatives.

AI: HAD seems to mean different things depending on who is talking about it – what does it actually mean for TomTom? De Vries: The automated driving vision is not consensual inside & outside the industry and there are basically two fundamentally different approaches on how driverless cars will come to the market, one comes from IT giants such as Google and the other from the automotive industry. Google’s approach is about revolutionizing mobility as we know it, designing the automated car from the end game. The automotive industry envisions the shift in an evolutionary manner; the transition to tomorrow’s driverless cars will be progressive and tied to the brand. With automated driving, new dilemmas will appear, among others around safety and liability – do computers indeed drive safer than humans and who is responsible in case an accident does occur? And what about user adoption – people can save time but where is the fun? We believe time will bring clarity to the different views. Eventually, as technology matures, everyone will agree that automated driving technology will be safer than humans, driving tasks will progressively be transferred to machines and adoption of HAD systems will increase. Our mission is to help OEMs realizing their end vision and bridge time by continuously investing and developing state of the art navigation technology.

AI: Can you share some examples of feature or use cases that you work on? De Vries: We believe ADAS is a milestone on the road towards HAD, so we work on both time horizons. With regards to ADAS, Adaptive Cruise Control can be taken to the next level by providing a picture beyond what the car sensors can “see”. We offer map components such as road curvature and speed limits together with connected services such as advanced weather to better calculate optimal speed in what is ahead. A popular feature of future highly automated driving vehicles will be the traffic jam chauffeur, where the car will be able to drive, including taking over other cars, without human intervention during a traffic jam. TomTom enables this use case by providing highly detailed 3D maps and highly reliable traffic information. These allow tail and head of traffic jam to be accurately identified granting the driver enough time to safely take back the control of the vehicle.

AI: This all sounds very exciting – how do you see TomTom company evolving in the coming few years? De Vries: We aim to be the preferred partner of OEM’s and Tier1s.Our goal is to help our customers to achieve their goals and guide people on their journeys. We foresee exciting times ahead with a growing TomTom business!



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