It’s an ambitious project that could result in a huge leap in the development of autonomous driving technology

The Japanese government is spearheading a move to map out the country’s roads in 3D to help push for the development of autonomous driving cars and get them on the road in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. According to a report from Nikkei, the project is being undertaken by Tokyo-based Dynamic Map Planning, in partnership with mapmaker Zenrin and a collaboration among nine automakers.

The project itself is still in the planning phase but the first order of business will reportedly involve Dynamic Map Planning making 3D maps covering 300 kilometers (186 miles) of the country’s main expressways. Eventually, the project aims to have a full a 3D layout of the country’s roads so it can proceed with implementing the data to recreate an accurate position of a vehicle in relation to where it is in the real world. The success of the project will rely on how the whole thing is approached. Multiple reports have said that the cars being used in capturing details of the roads will be fitted with GPS and sensors to gather specific measurements, including road grades and markings. Lasers will also be used in collecting the locations of road signs, traffic lights, right- and left-turns, and pedestrian crossings, among other markings.

The whole thing doesn’t come without its own set of challenges, not the least of which is the high costs that comes with such an ambitious endeavor. That’s precisely the reason why multiple companies were asked to join in on the collaboration, specifically to share costs and logistics to expedite the development of the technology and meet the timetable set by the Japanese Cabinet Office’s Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program, the brains behind the project.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Why it Matters

It doesn’t feel like a big deal now because the project has yet to fully get off the ground, but there are a lot of long-term effects to what this technology can provide for autonomous driving vehicles.

On the technical side, 3D maps provide a much clearer and more accurate position of a car in relation to the road and its surroundings. For the most part, GPS and sensor technologies are already capable of accomplishing that on a certain level, but there are still some challenges that these types of technologies will have a difficult time addressing. Items like multi-ramp highways and complicated road patterns like off ramps and jug handles are more difficult to recognize if the technology is simply relying on sensors and GPS. This is where 3D maps come into play since they can provide far more accurate data in determining exact road positioning. Without diving too much into the specifics, instances where 3D maps could prove to be very important in situations involving slope acceleration, and traffic light recognition in roads that feature sharp turns. Likewise, 3D maps can also distinguish road elevation, including multi-level flyovers, far more accurately than sensors and GPS.

The whole project is an ambitious one, but it’s also shaping up to be an important one in expediting the development of autonomous driving technology. Forget for a second Japan’s short-term goal of having self-driving cars on its roads by 2020; there’s a bigger and far more important goal of contributing to the development of autonomous driving systems, one that could help the country earn a bigger and voice in enacting future regulations pertaining to the revolutionary technology.

Source: Nikkei

Photo Credit: Youtube screenshot - Nagoya City

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