Japan is really keen to have autonomous cars plying on its streets by the end of the decade, just in time when the 2020 Olympics gets underway. And to achieve that, a consortium comprising of government agencies, map makers and car companies have been formed to help create 3D maps of the country's road network.
That in itself is a daunting task though once implemented successfully, self-driving car technology will get a major fillip. Apart from the scale of the operations, the other factor that can be a big impediment to the completion of the project is cost.
It is for this reason that nine automakers have been involved in the venture that is being spearheaded by the Tokyo-based Dynamic Map Planning that again was initially set up by Mitsubishi Electric. Apart from sharing logistics and costs, the consortium will also draw upon the expertise of map makers Zenrin, Nikkei reported.
The project will initially involve creation of high definition 3D maps of the country's main expressways covering over 300 kms. Among the data to be collected will be elevation of roads, position of signage and traffic lights and so on.
With such data on hand, the self-driving cars will know beforehand if they are approaching a traffic light, what to expect after a sharp turn and such. This way the cars will offer the most economical ride as they can slow down when nearer to a traffic light, wait for sloping to accelerate or determine the least congested route to the destination.
Another challenge before the consortium will be to recreate the exact 3D map of roadways in a dense urban environment where there are several ramps branching out in all directions. GPS technology alone won't be of much help in such situations.
It is for this reason that Mitsubishi Electric has developed a special equipment that it claims will help pin point the location of a vehicle on the map while associated sensors will help detect car inclination to determine the road grades.
As AutoEvolution puts it, 3D maps of a region will ensure autonomous cars have all it needs to drive on its own in a safe and hassle free manner. There are a lot of things that creating 3D map calls for though it could be well worth it once ready.