Assisted driving – an essential step towards fully autonomous driving – is coming at a speed that few predicted. An essential component in this technology is the on-board maps which guide the vehicle to its destination.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Frans de Rooij, Director Product Marketing, Automotive, TomTom, how the market has evolved since the first interview with AI on autonomous driving in 2014.
De Rooij: We have seen major developments in the market in the course of 2015, with many OEMs and Tier 1s making progress with autonomous driving technologies. We have seen plenty of prototypes and concepts developed, new partnerships formed and companies acquired – showing the importance of the technology to all in the industry.
We see autonomous driving becoming a reality much sooner than many predicted two years ago. The fact that Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are rapidly being adopted by all segment OEMs in the market is proof. ADA Systems perform key tasks that were traditionally always controlled by the driver (e.g. steering, acceleration), making driving safer, more efficient and more comfortable. In our view, these are important steps towards building autonomously driving vehicles.
TomTom has made significant progress in the development of our offering. We passed an important milestone with our transactional map-making platform by making our vision for real-time maps a reality. This has enabled us to extend our HD map coverage (high-definition maps to support Highly Automated Driving (HAD) functions). We have also launched a unique robust and scalable positioning technology, called RoadDNA, which allows cars to position themselves with surgical precision on the road.
AI: There’s a common understanding in the market that ADAS rely heavily on car sensors, such as radars and front-cameras. How does TomTom complement the role of these systems?
De Rooij: The role played by TomTom is a very important one, as these components will become fundamental pillars of the HAD vehicle. TomTom will continue to invest in its technology platform in make real-time and live maps a reality. In parallel we will continue to innovate in our service proposition to car manufacturers.
We enable vehicles to see beyond their sensors. In order for cars to become safer and more efficient, they need to rely on better planning ahead. The way we do this is by providing a complete, accurate and up-to-date picture of road conditions on the route. TomTom ADA and HAD Map features provide a persistent map layer of constantly updated road information, such as road geometry (height, curvature, gradient) and 3D lane model (center lines, lane-marks). On-board maps support the ADAS & HAD vehicle functions without the constraints of the availability of connectivity.
TomTom Live Maps Services provides a transient map layer on top of the ADA and HD map. These services inform the driver and the vehicle of dynamic road conditions, including for example traffic incidents, road conditions, weather and other safety-related information relevant for a complete environmental awareness of the vehicle.
“We see autonomous driving becoming a reality much sooner than many predicted two years ago.”
AI: What’s the role of your customer community in map making and service creation?
De Rooij: We can count on a community of hundreds of millions TomTom customers. They already provide valuable input into our map-making platform and connected services, helping us to detect map changes and current traffic conditions. Looking ahead, the next big opportunity is to use on-board car sensors, also known as extended floating car data (xFCD) to enrich the input received and broaden the services delivered.
To be successful in the automotive industry, suppliers have to provide a fully scalable solution to cover the global needs of car makers. To achieve that, we believe that a well-established community is crucial. It will have to be based on embedded systems from multiple car brands, but also leverage other devices as additional sources of probe data (e.g. aftermarket devices and smartphones).
Another fundamental condition for automotive suppliers is to comply with the high standards of quality demanded by OEMs. This requires not only a large volume of community probe data, but also the right competences and technology to make optimal use of the input from that community and deliver the resulting service back to the community. TomTom already has years of experience in these fields.
AI: You mentioned that any solution must be agnostic to car brands. Which main challenges you foresee ahead?
De Rooij: Several factors will influence how fast the services platforms will evolve. Firstly, car connectivity is obviously a main factor. Looking ahead we are quite positive about the development to come. Today some 30% of new cars sold globally are connected. Over the next five years this figure will probably more than double. The second main factor is related to standardization of solutions. OEMs and service providers must work together towards developing industry standards to enable scalable and global solutions. TomTom has been always been an active promotor of industry standards. With regards to the new opportunities brought by the connected car and car sensor data, we will continue the same pro-active approach.
AI: The connected car is a hot topic is the industry. Yet, there are concerns coming from drivers and OEMs on data privacy and data ownership. How does TomTom tackle these big issues?
De Rooij: We believe privacy is about freedom and being able to decide for yourself how your data is used and by whom. This is why we have established our privacy principles:
- i) Clarity: We will always keep the driver fully informed about his data. We make sure the driver understands which data from or about her or him we use, why we use it, how long we use it and who can use it.
- ii) Control: We enable drivers to remain in control of their data. We consider the data from or about the driver to be theirs. We only use it for the purposes for which the driver has given it to us, or for which we collected it from the driver or the car. At any time the driver can opt-out or opt-in using our software and websites.
- ii) Care: We protect the driver’s data. The driver’s data is theirs. We keep it that way by protecting it as well as we reasonably can to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
AI: Looking ahead, what are the key plans for TomTom?
De Rooij: TomTom is working closely with its partners to continuously innovate and support OEMs in their plans for autonomous driving. We actively participate in industry forums to jointly drive regulatory and industry directives. We want to tackle today’s challenges and help our partners accelerate developments towards highly autonomous driving. We are moving fast. Past investments are now paying off. Our ADA and HAD components will soon feature in semi- and highly-autonomous driving vehicles. We will continue to prove that TomTom is the right partner for future-proof navigation technology in the automotive industry.