You haven’t reached your destination (yet)

German car manufacturers Daimler, Audi and BMW invest large sums in map services. With good reason: Without absolutely reliable maps there is no way to autonomous driving.

Karten für autonomes Fahren

Maps for autonomous driving (Picture: David Masters/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

If one day, humankind shall not be involved actively in driving anymore, one thing is crucial: For being able to play the role of a simple passenger in your own car, extremely precise and up-to-date maps are needed. This is the key factor for a safe trip that goes in the right direction and is adapted to the actual situation. Google has taken significant steps in research about autonomous driving. The car fleet of the web giant already comprises numerous unmanned cars.

But it’s not only Google : Also TomTom and Nokia work on map services that might change the future of traffic.

Every centimeter will count

As reported by, TomTom cooperates with the big automotive supplier Bosch and has recently given an insight on how future navigation could look like. The routing from A to B, the so-called “basic navigation layer” will remain. However, additional critical “layers” will be added in order to enable driverless navigation. The car needs to “know” where it is located. It has to maintain a certain distance to other cars, pedestrians or trees. It has to be able to read traffic signs and to estimate the radius of a curve. Up to now, a precision level up to several meters has been acceptable. Now, as reported by, every decimetre counts.

Road construction as major obstacle

Of course maps used for autonomous driving have to be up-to-date. When a street course has been changed and the self-propelled car doesn’t get the information, the risk for accidents increases enormously. “You also have to be informed about one-day construction sites” says Christian Buric of ADAC to To solve this problem, the suppliers want every autonomous car to collect the actual data respectively. If the car enters a modified road, it can send the information to all other cars.

The digital enemy is taken into account

If you count on digital information, there is always the risk of cyber attacks that cause considerable damage. The car manufacturers BMW, Audi und Mercedes rely on Nokia’s know-how. They bought its program “Here”. “If data comes from an external supplier, there is always the question how up-to-date the information really is,” explains Constantin Hack of Car Club Europe (ACE) to By buying the program itself, the car manufacturers do have the topicality in their own hands. Moreover, they avoid  liablity issues, in case the data has not been delivered in the current version. Also the fight against cyber attacks can be addressed by the manufacturers themselves.

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