People on the move need maps that are both accurate and up-to-date – whatever their mode of travel. TomTom is harnessing the power of its installed base to keep its maps up-to-date
Automotive Industries (AI) started the interview by asking Charles Cautley, Managing Director of Maps at TomTom to tell us more about his division.
Cautley: When people think of TomTom, they automatically think of PNDs (personal navigation devices); however, TomTom is a lot more than this. I am responsible for our map product suite, which includes 25 unique products. The maps we build power an array of applications developed by our partners in automotive, mobile, internet, location-based services and geospatial solutions. In fact, close to a billion people rely on TomTom maps today!
AI: Tell us about the recently launched real-time maps.
Cautley: Location is more and more relevant to us and the things we use today. With the growing dependence on accurate maps, maps can no longer be out-of-date. Using mobile mapping van driving alone to keep maps up-to-date is too slow, and using community input alone has risks. At TomTom, our goal with real-time maps is to deliver the highest quality map by minimizing the time between detecting changes in the real world and updating the map on the end-user’s device or platform. Such maps are required to support the future use cases such as automated driving and location aware Internet of Things. Through a multi-year improvement program we have proudly achieved our real-time map goal.
AI: How does TomTom create real-time maps?
Cautley: First, we rely on ‘intelligent mapmaking.’ TomTom invented and perfected a highly efficient hybrid approach that combines professional mapmaking methods with community input and has a focus on fast cycle-times and quality assurance. Through this hybrid approach, we tap into local teams of highly skilled map technicians located in more than 40 countries and a fleet of mobile mapping vans that drive the streets every day. We also have a growing community of hundreds of millions of users that both share map feedback with us as changes in the real world are detected. We receive more than 200,000 consumer reports monthly and our database of anonymous GPS measurements is at 10 trillion probe data points and growing.
Second, we have strengthened the mapmaking process with a new transactional mapmaking platform.
AI: What motivates community members to share map changes with TomTom?
Cautley: Empowerment to both improve his/her own location experience while contributing to the well-being of the community he/she belongs. While we have many trusted community members for which we are very grateful, at TomTom we always quality check the map change recommendations to ensure real-time accuracy and avoid the mistakes we often see with other providers’ maps.
AI: How frequently does TomTom update its maps?
Cautley: TomTom makes hundreds of thousands of edits to its maps every single day. Our transactional mapmaking platform allows us to rapidly close the loop between detecting changes in the real world and updating the map on an end-user’s device. With this seamless process, we believe we will always be the first to publish the most up-to-date and accurate maps in the market. Today our legacy navigable map products are released every three months. Going forward, we will release our maps much more
frequently; Monthly, weekly and eventually releasing updates in days and for some map features, hours! And, with this we can offer quality service guarantees, which was not possible with the old way of mapmaking.
AI: You mention a transactional mapmaking platform; can you tell us how maps are updated using this platform?
Cautley: Transactional means a change can pass through our closed loop process end-to-end, be quality assured in real-time, and end up in the product for use quickly. First, a map change is detected via our intelligent mapmaking process. Next, we select only the part of the map that is impacted by the change. We update the map and then conduct a live quality check that assures accuracy. We then merge the changed piece back into the map. Indeed, thanks to this quality assured transactional process, the map database is continuously releasable.
AI: You then need to deliver these updates to customers; tell us how this works.
Cautley: TomTom leads the industry with new map delivery formats that are not only capable of incremental map updates, but are also fast, efficient and easy to use. Our new MultiNet-R, delivers all the high-quality content layers of the TomTom map database in a single and easy to use relational database model. As an industry leader in the adoption of the Navigation Data Standard (NDS), TomTom offers modular, plug-and-play runtime maps ready for use in NDS software applications. Finally, our Map Content API provides streaming maps with total flexibility and access to the latest possible map changes.
AI: What does this mean for automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers?
Cautley: From the perspective of an OEM or a Tier 1 supplier, real-time maps mean that our partners can offer a better navigation experience to their customers. Currently, updating the map in the car is a hassle, and often an expensive one. We have built a wealth of experience distributing map updates to PND customers, and we are applying this knowledge to our automotive business. A more up-to-date map means a better navigation experience and is critical to ensuring a positive experience with the infotainment system.
Our real-time maps can also be combined with TomTom’s other connected navigation components (NavKit, our navigation engine, and our range of connected services, such as TomTom Traffic) to offer the driver a richer and more accurate experience. Using TomTom’s connected navigation system can help OEMs shorten their time to market and stay close to the fast-changing customer expectations.
AI: How will real-time maps impact highly autonomous driving (HAD)?
Cautley: With the prospect of self-driving cars in the very near future, the demand for highly accurate maps will only increase. Our mapmaking technologies put TomTom in a leading position to pioneer advanced map features required for Highly Automated Driving (HAD) purposes. In order for a vehicle to drive autonomously it must have access to the most precise and up-to-date map data to help the car sense its environment and navigate without human input. TomTom can deliver this level of precision and the ultimate in currency with its real-time maps.
The advances we have already made and our commitment to further research and development have helped us secure a collaboration with Volkswagen to help bring HAD to cars. TomTom and Volkswagen Research are working on a concept based on NDS to deliver scalable and cost-effective automated driving systems. Additionally, our partnership with Bosch SoftTec will enable Bosch to develop advanced applications, including intelligent curve control, etc. using the most up-to-date map from TomTom.
Al: What role do your real-time maps play in the Internet of Things?
Cautley: Like the car becoming connected there is a growing reality of smart connected devices that have an array of sensors collecting substantial data about our real world. These devices, many location-aware, will require maps that are highly accurate and detailed. Our real-time maps and the underpinning intelligent mapmaking process and platform provide the map engine on which these devices can and will rely. Our closed loop process characterized by fast cycle times and high quality assurance puts TomTom maps in a unique position of being able to support future use cases.