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Google Earth Technology

How Satnav Maps Are Made 48

Barence writes "PC Pro has a feature revealing how the world's biggest satnav firms create their maps. Nokia's Navteq, for example, has a huge database of almost 24 million miles of road across the globe. For each mile of road there are multiple data points, and for each of those positions, more than 280 road attributes. The maps are generated from public data and driver feedback, not to mention its own fleet of cars with 360-degree cameras on the top. There's an IMU (inertial measurement unit) for monitoring the pitch of the road, and the very latest in 3D surface-scanning technology too. This light detection and ranging (LIDAR) detector captures 1.3 million three-dimensional data points every second, mapping the world around Navteq's field vehicles in true 3D. The feature also investigates whether commercial mapping firms will be replaced by open-source maps." That last line makes me think of the difference between conventionally published encyclopedias and Wikipedia; "replaced by" is an odd standard in a big marketplace of ideas.
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How Satnav Maps Are Made

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  • um... sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @09:29AM (#40420461)

    ...let me just warm up my 360 degree camera and my LIDAR gear, like we all have one, and go take mapping data for my neighbourhood...

    • by Exrio ( 2646817 )
      Well... Domestically available gear is going in that direction. Think four Kinects recording to a laptop with GPS. Unsuitable now, but it's going there.
    • If quadrotors can do it with Kinects for indoor mapping, using Kinects with your car and a precision GPS/WAAS receiver are around the corner: []

      Openstreetmap is going to need more storage capacity.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @10:25AM (#40420715)

      . LIDAR gear, like we all have one, and go take mapping data for my neighbourhood...

      From Wikipedia,

      LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging, also LADAR) is an optical remote sensing technology that can measure the distance to, or other properties of a target by illuminating the target with light, often using pulses from a laser.

      The next time you are driving, look at the car behind you in the rear view mirror. If a shark is driving the car, the chances are, that he has a LIDAR on the roof!

    • ...let me just warm up my 360 degree camera and my LIDAR gear, like we all have one, and go take mapping data for my neighbourhood...

      Sure, that's where Apple and Google are investing most of their resources now. Why? Because the useful information has already been gathered, so now they're competing way past the point of diminishing returns to make flashy eye candy.

      Making good open maps for the normal purpose of getting around doesn't require any more sophisticated equipment than a GPS receiver.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Making good open maps for the normal purpose of getting around doesn't require any more sophisticated equipment than a GPS receiver.

        Except if you want to avoid routing someone under a low overpass they can't clear. GPSs in trucks are a bit more complex than you are considering.

      • Re:um... sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by milkmage ( 795746 ) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @12:45PM (#40421639)

        GPS is fine for the mundane point A to point B navigation, but if you're exploring (road trip) - gas stations and places to eat and sleep are handy.. GPS alone is no good for that - you have to have POIs

        streetview and flyover are useful if you want to get an idea of what's around. once in a while I'll get a restaurant recommendation from someone and if I'm not sure if I've been there (I don't remember names of places very well) I'll drive down the street courtesy of google.

        the monocle feature in the yelp app uses POIs - useful if you're in a city you don't know. I was coming up from the underground in DC and was supposed to meet someone.. I had no idea what direction to walk... yelp told me which way to go. (easier than getting directions since I didn't need to enter an address and GPS w/o POIs makes the address useless anyway)

        we had a gathering in a huge park last week.. the people not familiar with the city used google earth to find the meadow where we were supposed to meet. kind of hard to find a big open space 300 yards away when you're surrounded by trees. (park here, go 300 yards south) some people have a really hard time navigating with maps. aerial photos are easier to relate too.

    • by westyvw ( 653833 )

      Interesting. Crowd vs Commercial mapping.
      The difference is the commercial vendor is trying to get multiple data inputs (LIDAR and 360) to quickly gather enough information that one process or person can make maps.
      With neighborhood mapping, you can get multiple inputs, from interested parties with a single map input, and over a longer time.

  • In my day (Score:5, Interesting)

    by silas_moeckel ( 234313 ) <silas&dsminc-corp,com> on Saturday June 23, 2012 @09:31AM (#40420475) Homepage

    Way back I worked at a DOT they were buying the sat maps from the Russians very good positional accuracy but no data to go with them. We would take the census maps that are useless for positions but have all the road names house numbers etc. The feds had sat maps as well but refused to sell them of give them to the states. We also merged it with data from a fleet of vans primarily with a gps and camera's (going to laser disk no less). A whole crew of people would spend all day matching things by hand and merging the data.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      I worked in a place where they did measuring and positioning based on satellite imagery. The sign on the door to their room said "Mensuration", which caused a lot of double takes and giggling.
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Way back I worked at a DOT they were buying the sat maps from the Russians very good positional accuracy but no data to go with them.

      I worked in Russia in the early 90's (before satnav existed) and was amused by stories I heard about Russian road atlases. The main one was that while all the towns were represented along with the roads that connected them, that the maps were laid out such that the towns weren't where the maps actually indicated. So you could navigate from town to town, but not be sure where you actually were.

      And of the town I was working in (Magnitogorsk, in Siberia) the best maps I saw of the place were US milit

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Given how crap all satnav maps are for my area, I figured it followed a process similar to this one. []
  • What about updating old roads that get changed?

    also when they build that new part of I-355 it took for ever to show up on the on line maps and even a radio station made fun of it.

    • I agree, this should happen pretty much in real-time now. If 1% of cars were constantly reporting their location, it would be plenty for real-time mapping of traffic flow (much less updating where roads are) in urban areas.
    • by dwillden ( 521345 ) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @12:32PM (#40421541) Homepage
      Bingo, And that is why I'd like everybody to give Waze [] a serious try. Similar to OSM it's maps are editable. It requires an active data connection on your device to work fully and properly. As your driving it's continually reporting your location and speed data to their system. This allows it to dynamically route around traffic issues. This used to be the biggest selling point, but it's no longer that unique of a feature. What is unique is that every user is allowed to log into the map and make fixes.

      How significant is this? Six months ago I discovered Waze, at the time I was using a TomTom device and was frustrated that finally two years after opening a major new commuter route had finally made it onto the TomTom maps. But another route that cut more time off my commute had just opened and I knew Tomtom wouldn't have it for years to come. When I fired up Waze, less than two months after the second commuter route had opened, it was already in their maps. The second benefit was I'd reported other errors via the TomTom reporting system without ever seeing the fixes getting made. I was able to go into the Maps in Waze and my fixes went active within a couple weeks.

      Since then I've spent quite a bit of time cleaning up the roads in my area. I've mapped in a major road re-design and another new commuter route before they were open to traffic. I turned both on a couple weeks before the roads actually opened and both were live on the system the day each road opened. Contrast that to the first road and TomTom taking nearly two years to add it to their maps.

      And best of all, Waze is free, those TomTom updates were $12 every quarter, for very slow updates. Waze is as accurate as the users in the area make it, it has helped me avoid several traffic jams and it's free! (as in beer). You don't have to edit or any thing, you just need an iOS or Android device (there are versions that will work on Winmobile, symbian and Blackberry devices but they are not updating those client apps at this time), with an active data connection and you are on your way.
      • I like the concept, but I don't understand why they're maintaining a separate database instead of just using OpenStreetMap data. It seems a bit redundant. Also, it seems to me like they got their data from OpenStreetMap anyway (or at least got it from the same source). Because there are errors that were on the OpenStreetMap, which I fixed, yet they are still present on the Waze map. The exact same mistakes. Why fork the project?
        • The errors came from the same original source data not from OSM. Waze intends and does monetize their maps, and if they just used OSM maps they couldn't do so. Similarities in the maps is due to the original public resource base data, not between the two products.

          The Waze maps were never forked from OSM, Waze started in Israel and had no basemap, it was created entirely by users, and in country after country this has occurred, people find out about the app and start driving with it running, this quickl
  • It wasn't so long that tom-tom were criticizing openstreetmap [], and trying to pretend their data was better than crowd-sourced data.

    • I think this is the important point OP was making in that last paragraph.

      We may see crowdsourced maps replacing commercial services, or we may see a gamut of various services. The real question is whether the commercial services can changes their business models rapidly enough to keep up.
  • Navteq? Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @10:12AM (#40420641) Homepage

    They have the WORST maps available. Most of it is wrong, very low detail in any town that is smaller than 300,000 people. And they charge anal rape prices for their map updates.

    I had one of the first in car nav systems, the Clarion Auto PC and the navteq maps were borderline worthless. the maps were missing most roads, no data about most one way streets, etc..

    In fact 10 years later in 2009 I had the unfortunate experience of using Navteq data in a Jeep Grand Cherokee Nav system and once again crap maps, and it even had roads in locations that have not existed for decades, so their data set is still out of whack so bad it's not funny.

    No thanks. I avoid all products that say "Navteq map database" on them.

    Garmin uses Navteq but then uses teleatlas to correct the mess that is Navteq. Their maps are a hybrid of 4 different map database sources ran through their servers to correct them. So far I have had OK luck with Garmin's source database. I stopped using Megallan as they switched to the Navteq low quality database.

    Want good maps in your GPS? teleatlas as the data source.

    • Mod parrent to +Infinity. Navteq is by far the worst GPS/mapping database out there. Even the half-hearted, "croud-sourced" Waze is better.

      I frequently use my iPhone's mapping system when I'm in my van with the Navteq system. It's not just the road mistakes & outdated info, it's also the interface. I recently tried to get directions to my town's YMCA. After 10 minutes, the best match I could find was one over 1,000 miles away. 3 seconds with Siri and I had directions.

      I am completly convinced that th

    • Don't blame Navteq (Score:4, Interesting)

      by batistuta ( 1794636 ) on Saturday June 23, 2012 @01:31PM (#40421907)

      Natvteq has actually very good maps, particularly in Europe. The reason why your map looks bad is most likely due to your particular gear vendor. Garmin, Becker, Blaupunkt, Falk, etc. they buy maps from Navteq or Teleatlas, and they compile it for whatever their main goal and budget. In order to reduce the map size and save money, they compress the data using a battery of techniques. One common technique is decimation, where they simply remove geometry points to save space, leaving mostly the ones that represent intersections and a few in the middle. POI suffer as well.

      So please don't be too fast in blaming a map vendor, where the fault is almost certainly from your navigation system vendor.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The article implies that the only ability to modify the data on Google Maps is using the Report a Problem link, but many countries in the world, including the US and Canada, allow everything to be edited directly by anyone using Map Maker []. Edits are reviewed by both a team of over 500 trusted users worldwide and by Google employees. As trust is built up by making good edits and reviewing the edits of others, more things can be changed without requiring approvals. It's like an MMORPG for map geeks, except th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      OpenstreetMap is an all round better deal for people to get involved with. The map data is licensed Creative Commons and isn't owned by any single person, government, or corporation. We sure don't want mapping data locked up for 70+ years, now do we?

    • In concept you're right, but trying to get those changes approved is a joke. I've tried to get my parent's farming lane removed (2 miles, dirt, signed as private at both ends). The first response back was that they've verified that it's actually a road and wouldn't fix it, so I reported it again. It took longer than it should have (over a year, I believe)...the whole while routing people through it as if it were a road they'd actually want to use. In my town, they show the town hall as being in the middle o

  • LISP had MAPCAR 50 years ago.
  • I hope they have an army of bots ready to revert vandalism as soon as the data becomes publically-accessible!

  • Contact every level of your government. Impress upon them that you, the taxpayer, has already paid for every map of every road. Demand that they post their jurisdiction's road online and keep it up to date. This will benefit emergency personnel, road crews (by keeping contruction locations up to date) and speed up delivery times.

    So, are you calling your government now?? Let's make this happen.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.