未来无人驾驶汽车将能为城市“绘制”地图

据CNET 网站报道,Here地图(Here Maps)将为自己绘制出一个美好的未来。其目标是成为无人驾驶汽车时代的引擎。Here地图是涉足颇为热门的无人驾驶汽车领域的最新一家公司。无人驾驶汽车领域吸引了从科技巨头谷歌到传统汽车厂商在内的各类公司的参与。8月,奥迪、宝马和戴姆勒联手斥资31亿美元(约合人民币197亿元)从诺基亚手中收购了Here地图业务。

目前,无人驾驶汽车都是原型产品,尚未进入量产阶段。据汽车厂商和其他无人驾驶汽车技术公司称,无人驾驶汽车将在2020年前后进入商品化阶段。

CNET表示,无人驾驶汽车面临的关键挑战之一是,需要确保它们有完美无缺的导航功能。这是Here发现的一个商机。

Here的使命是制作高分辨率的3D地图,它希望其高清3D地图能在无人驾驶汽车领域扮演重要角色。但是,其愿景不仅仅是帮助无人驾驶汽车选择恰当的路径。在上周的一次新闻发布会上,Here联网驾驶体验副总裁弗洛里斯·冯-德-克拉斯霍斯特(Floris van de Klashorst)说,未来无人驾驶汽车不仅仅在城市内穿梭,还帮助管理城市。

当汽车在城市中穿梭和在公路上行驶时,它们不仅收集与交通车流有关的数据,还会收集与它们“看到”的事物有关的数据。它们将成为智能“蜂群”,出于导航目的相互“交谈”,也向控制中枢发送信息,帮助管理机构了解城市正在发生的一切事物。

冯-德-克拉斯霍斯特表示,“汽车将帮助我们维护地图。”汽车维护的地图将成为动态、几乎是“活的事物”,使车辆和它们所处的环境保持同步。他说,“地图不再是静态的,它将成为真实世界高清、高精度的表示。”

CNET称,他认为地图将分为几个层次,基本层——我们目前看到的地图,基本不会有大的变化,但其上的几个层将是可变的,会随车流和城市中可改变的元素而变化。

Here已经在提供与谷歌和苹果类似产品相竞争的导航地图。

IHS Automotive资深分析师杰里米·卡尔森(Jeremy Carlson)表示,“及时更新的地图数据对于无人驾驶非常重要,但其作用不仅仅局限于导航。目前,这些高清地图(部分地)负责直接建议汽车如何行驶。Here对联网汽车和无所不在的信息技术有着深入了解。”

过去,大型汽车制造厂商认为这些地图应当是由它们制作和维护的。冯-德-克拉斯霍斯特表示,多年来,它们一直不对外开放它们掌握的数据,但它们已经意识到,“如果你不开放地图,无人驾驶就不可能出现”。

它还将是群体性努力。冯-德-克拉斯霍斯特表示,在德国,每天沿同一条路行驶的宝马汽车无法为无人驾驶汽车收集到足够的数据,“你需要有多种类型的无人驾驶汽车以更高密度、更高频率无时无刻地行驶”。

业界似乎已经明白了这一点。诺基亚的Here业务被3家德国汽车巨头联手收购,这是制定业界标准的第一步。冯-德-克拉斯霍斯特说,“我们取得的一大进展是,汽车厂商已经开始意识到这一点。”

CNET指出,卡尔森表示,由于Here“几乎成为一项共享的业界资源”,并已经引发业界在这一主题上的对话,它有潜力成为汽车产业所需要的“与厂商无关的聚合器”。

这些数据对政府部门也有利。使汽车成为智慧城市基础设施的一部分,将使交通管理机构帮助城市适应其内部的变化。冯-德-克拉斯霍斯特表示,例如改变交通信号灯让救护车优先通过路口,“无人驾驶对社会和人的好处与政府的社会管理任务是一致的,它们制作的地图也将使得政府能更好地为社会服务”。

How self-driving cars will be the mapmakers of our future cities

Here Maps has a plan to make itself a resource in the new age of autonomous vehicles.

LONDON -- Here Maps is plotting a course for its future. The destination: becoming an engine of the new era of self-driving cars.

It's the latest company to jump into the hot arena of autonomous vehicles, which has attracted everyone from tech giant Google to traditional automakers. The mapping specialist is now nestled in among those car companies. In August, an alliance of Audi, BMW and Daimlerponied up $3.1 billion to acquire Here from Finnish telecom giant Nokia.

For the moment, self-driving cars remain prototypes, not production vehicles. They could start to become commercially available around 2020, according to automakers and others building them.

One of the key challenges with self-driving cars is the need to ensure that they have faultless navigation capabilities. That's where Here sees an opportunity.

The mission for Here is to create high-definition 3D maps that it hopes will play a critical role in self-driving cars. But the company's vision is bigger even than just helping autonomous vehicles find their way around. In the future, self-driving cars will not just be navigating cities, but helping to run them, said Floris van de Klashorst, Here's vice president of connected driving experiences, at a media event last week.

As the vehicles trundle around cities and up and down motorways, they will gather data not just about traffic, but about everything they encounter en route. Collectively, they will form an intelligent swarm, talking to each other for the purposes of navigation, but also reporting back to a central hub to help build up a picture of what's happening.

"Cars will help us to maintain the maps," said van de Klashorst. "For the HD map, cars will observe the infrastructure and will compare it to the static version of the world when they are in the car."

As a result, the map to which they contribute will become a dynamic, almost living thing, keeping vehicles and their environment in sync. "The map is no longer static. It is becoming a high-definition, highly precise representation of the real world," said van de Klashorst.

The way he pictures this is in layers, with the base layer -- the map as we see it today -- remaining pretty much unchanged, but layers on top being more fluid, shifting with the rhythms of the traffic and the more changeable elements of the urban landscape.

Here has already been supplying navigation maps as an alternative to those from Google and Apple.

"Up-to-date map data is very important to automated and autonomous driving, even more so than to navigation," said Jeremy Carlson, a senior analyst for IHS Automotive. "These HD maps are now (partially) responsible for directly advising the vehicle itself how to behave. The connected car, along with ubiquitous information technology that helps us quantify our world ... is something that Here understands very well."

It used to be that big car manufacturers thought that they would make and maintain these maps themselves. For years, they have sat on their data, said van de Klashorst, but they have come to the realization that "if you don't keep it open, autonomous driving will not happen."

It will also be a group effort. A BMW vehicle driving the same road in Germany every day does not collect enough data for a self-driving car, van de Klashorst said. "You need to have a much higher density, much higher frequency and many types of cars driving there autonomously all the time," he said.

The industry appears to get it. Nokia's Here subsidiary, after all, was purchased by a consortium of companies, which is a good first step toward developing an industry standard. "The great progress that we've made is that we're now in a situation where the car manufacturers have started to understand," van de Klashorst said.
Because Here is "(almost) a shared industry asset" and has initiated industrywide dialogue on the topic, it has the potential to be the "agnostic aggregator" needed within the automotive world, said Carlson.

The data will be a boon to governments, too. Making cars part of the infrastructure of connected cities will allow transportation administrators to help a city adapt to what is happening within it. Take, for example, the ability to change traffic lights to let ambulances through, van de Klashorst said.

"The benefits of autonomous driving for society and for people are very well aligned with the social agenda of governments, and these maps will support that well," he said.


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