TomTom steers toward progress with autonomous test vehicle

TomTom's autonomous test vehicle will be used to improve its high-definition mapping services and overall functionality.

How autonomous vehicles could co-exist with traditional cars in the near future Car & Driver Editor-in-Chief Eddie Alterman talks about the role he sees for autonomous cars in the future, and what he thinks will happen to human-driven vehicles.

On Thursday, Dutch location technology specialist TomTom announced updates to its latest autonomous test vehicle. The self-driving car will be used to test the latest technologies associated with TomTom's HD mapping services and improve autonomous driving functionality. 

Despite hype around self-driving cars, the regular deployment of fully autonomous vehicles in the US continues facing delays. Major deficiencies in autonomous automobile functionality persist, resulting in consistent human intervention to handle unpredictable situations, Consumer Watchdog found

SEE: How smart tech is transforming the transportation industry (TechRepublic Premium)

However, TomTom's test vehicle is a step in the right direction. Fit with eight laser scanners, stereo cameras, and six radars, the car offers a 360-degree view of its surroundings, which is processed and referenced against TomTom's HD Map, according to a press release

"Having our own autonomous vehicle is a critical advantage when it comes to developing the technology required for safe and comfortable autonomous driving," Willem Strijbosch, TomTom's head of autonomous driving, said in the release. "We can continuously test our mapping technology on the roads, get insights and high-quality data on how it performs in a multitude of circumstances and, right away, feed this into our AI-driven map-making process."

The high-definition map

The TomTom HD Map provides an accurate, realistic representation of the road, including lane models, traffic signs, lane geometry, and road furniture—down to the centimeter. With such physical precision, the car's sensors are then able to safely plan a route to its destination. 

The HD Map is available in Europe, the US, and Asia, the release said. 

Updates to the mapping system were also announced Thursday. In collaboration with computer vision software company HELLA Aglaia, TomTom is improving its HD Map with real time updating capabilities, using crowdsourced camera data from automobiles. The camera data will be shared to TomTom's cloud-based mapping system for the autonomous vehicle, which will help the self-driving car see the realities of the road as accurately as possible. 

Vehicles powered by TomTom's maps have doubled, with more than one million private and commercial vehicles hitting the road, the release said. These maps are meant to help vehicles navigate the roads in a safer, more effective manner. 

For more, check out How autonomous vehicles could co-exist with traditional cars in the near future on TechRepublic. 

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