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Businesses The Almighty Buck Technology

This Company Is Crowdsourcing Maps For Self-Driving Cars (wired.com) 61

mirandakatz writes: If we want self-driving cars to become mainstream, we need maps -- and not just any maps. We need ridiculously detailed and constantly updated maps of the world's roads. And there's a mad race among startups to become the definitive provider of those maps. At Backchannel, Steven Levy takes a deep look at Mapper, a startup that just came out of stealth today and that hopes to become that definitive provider by crowdsourcing the production of those maps, paying drivers to drive around with a special mapping device on their windshields. As Levy writes, "Mapper's solution is to create an army of part-time workers to gather data that will accrue to a huge "base map" for autonomous cars, and to update the map to keep it current. Think of the work as an alternative to driving for Uber and Lyft, without having to deal with customer ratings or backseat outbursts from Travis Kalanick."

This Company Is Crowdsourcing Maps For Self-Driving Cars

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  • Google already has the tech for this. They demoed it. Their OS will be everywhere including cars. I'm sure that this war has already been won.

    • And Tesla is getting this data from every car they sell, for free.

      • And Waze, which is part of Google. When people come out with big announcements like this, I have to wonder if they're either 1) stupid or 2) just trying to sucker some VCs out of cash.

      • as does comma.ai [comma.ai]

        (With the small difference that their software is opensource,
        and their hardware is not vendor specific)

      • not sure tesla et al is gathering the lidar etc data to get the level of quality needed for autonomous progess

        (although given enough investment in algorithms they can probably work with poorer source data)

  • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @10:59AM (#55349573) Homepage Journal

    Sounds like something OpenStreetMap already does, though there are probably accuracy and liabilities limitations? Though, based on the following sentence, I would suspect the map data they produce is not going to be open:

    Mapper’s solution is to create an army of part-time workers to gather data that will accrue to a huge “base map” for autonomous cars, and to update the map to keep it current.

    The other thing is whether they will reference publicly the sources of their data, otherwise there is likely to be a high risk of ripping off other sources and even including the same errors.

    • Re:OpenStreetMap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @11:09AM (#55349647)

      If self driving cars need such detailed maps, then Self Driving cars are not yet ready for the general public.

      I know my GPS sometimes gets confused when going off a Ramp onto a highway, or a road parallel to a highway, and areas that fork rather rapidly. However this requires the self driving car to make the decisions not a detailed map. Because Roads change too often. Just this summer, we had some flooding that wiped out a good part of a road, for a few weeks, one lane of the road was closed causing 1 way traffic with a makeshift stoplight. Then after construction was done the road was shifted 15 feet to one side. If self driving cars are to be a reality, they will need to figure this stuff out by itself, and not with detailed maps. As this stuff can change faster (especially on low populated areas) then people can record such changes.

      • Totally agree. Even humans get confused when trusting the map and GPS too much, instead of using reasonable judgement. There have been cases of vehicles ending up far from the expected destination, on a non-existent road or even trucks on roads that were too narrow for them. While software can compensate for some of the human errors, they will introduce others, at least at the beginning, because of sensory limitations or analysis limitations.

        The other issue is GPS accuracy, whereby you can be happily going

        • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

          Unlike a human, the car will be able to see while reading the map, it will know it didn't take the left fork, and better be able to position itself.

          The crowd sourced maps will hopefully include the extra details you mention as problems with current GPS maps (I'm less optimistic there).

      • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

        If self driving cars need such detailed maps, then Self Driving cars are not yet ready for the general public.

        It's way more of a problem than just maps.

        How does an autonomous vehicle recognize a policeman holding up his hand to say "Stop".

        Or (in the case of VA law) move over a lane when passing a police car (marked or unmarked) on the side of the road that has pulled a miscreant over.

        • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

          1) they see the difference from their baseline map and exert extra processing power to that part of the image to better recognize the policemen and his gestures (which are usually opaque to me, so good luck to the autonomous car).

          2) They move over for any stopped car on the side of the road, that one should be pretty easy.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Eventually yes, once you want to have cars where nobody else is licensed or capable of driving. But for the most part though I'd be very happy with a car that needs a human to take over every time the baseline changes. Because 98% of the time, 98% of the road it's exactly like last time and if SDCs become popular 98% of the changes have probably been recorded by somebody else. It's the reverse of the OTA updates to the car, "here and here and here my human had to take over", you upload the sensor data and t

    • Sounds like something OpenStreetMap already does, though there are probably accuracy and liabilities limitations?

      I came here to say this.

      OSM maps are very good. I have a hard time believing that you could crowdsource maps that are better.

      • The point of self-driving grade maps is to be precise down to the exact lane.

        like "the two left lane are for turning left. the two right lane should be for 'straight ahead', except that the second from the right is currently blocked by construction works".

        (i.e.: even more precise than what's available on commercial satnavs).

        OSM doesn't go that precisely into details.

        For that you need to crowdsource it from video feeds :
        - the first time the car goes there (either in actual autopilot mode, or in 100% pure man

        • (i.e.: even more precise than what's available on commercial satnavs).

          But not more precise than Google Maps, which does exactly this.

          OSM doesn't go that precisely into details.

          True. I wasn't saying OSM was good enough for this task -- I was saying that it's hard to think that a new crowdsourced service would do any better.

          The truth is, even the gold standard for this sort of thing (Google Maps) doesn't have the amount of accuracy required. And can't. These things change too frequently to actually rely on them for that level of detail.

          For that you need to crowdsource it from video feeds

          That would be an improvement, certainly. It's still hard to see how it would be effec

          • But not more precise than Google Maps, which does exactly this.

            Oh, do they ? In my (limited) experience I've only seen the "usual lanes plan when there's no construction work" that other satnavs provide too.

            But maybe it's not available yet in all cities.

            The truth is, even the gold standard for this sort of thing (Google Maps) doesn't have the amount of accuracy required. And can't. These things change too frequently to actually rely on them for that level of detail.

            Yup, the guys at Google have often mentioned that indeed.
            Hence the whole idea of using cameras and teaching the cars to understand their environment.

            That would be an improvement, certainly. It's still hard to see how it would be effective enough in practice as a crowdsourced venture. How are they going to convince enough people to outfit their cars with dash cams?

            Actually, comma.ai has exactly managed that with chffr : convice enough people to install it so they can have enough data to teach their system.

            Their strategy revolve aroun

    • accuracy some times you are off by one house where the numbers are not lined up right to the gps.

    • Complete, accurate, current maps would certainly help. But people have gotten by without them (mostly) for over a century. And I think autonomous cars are going to have to be able to do so as well. Otherwise every street line painting project, pothole repair, jack-knifed semi-trailer or new/altered traffic signal is going to throw them for a loop. One of the requirements for a serious autonomous vehicle would seem to be to be able to distinguish a road from a parking lot from a playground and handle e

      • I know someone who works in the GIS department of my city. There is no freaking way they have the resources to keep up with this.
  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @11:01AM (#55349597)

    If we want self-driving cars to become mainstream, we need maps

    No. If these systems require more accurate maps [than human motorists require] to keep passengers alive, then the self-driving peons still don't get it.

    • A human can handle things like, "Upon reaching the entrance to that rural property, follow the gravel until it looks like a better idea to be on the dirt path, and maybe park on the grass next to that other car".

      People are already talking about self-driving cars without any operator controls, and I just don't see that happening without a general AI, because there's so much knowledge and abstract understanding of the world required to operate a car in unusual circumstances.

      Or, for those of us in snowy climat

  • https://xkcd.com/1897/ [xkcd.com]
    Oddly, only from a week or so ago.
    • https://xkcd.com/1897/ [xkcd.com]

      Oddly, only from a week or so ago.

      Crowdsourcing also depends on the crowd for the most part being non-malicious and honest. Just imagine 'pranking' the system and the potential outcomes.

      • Crowdsourcing also depends on the crowd for the most part being non-malicious and honest. Just imagine 'pranking' the system and the potential outcomes.

        Happily, filtering data to remove the outliers is a long solved problem. This makes pranking the system much more difficult.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That mapping device, if that is the current iteration, is illegal in most if not all states. It is below the AS1 line and obviously blocks a large amount of view.

  • Which just shows, once again, how pathetically limited AI systems are. Albeit we people do need maps, when driving we make our immediate decisions based on the information we get in real time, without having to cross-check with a map.
    • This was kind of my thought too - why do they need maps? I learned to drive without a map. I had to learn directions to local areas as I went. And when I do need a map, they are not "ridiculously detailed" - a road atlas has a pretty coarse scale.

      Maybe part of the difficulty in achieving autonomous cars is that people seem to be trying to have the autonomous agents "know everything" at time of manufacture, rather than learn as they go.

      • What we call "AI" is BS. There is no such thing. Computers don't "learn" and they never have. They just run programs.
        • I agree that "AI" as its currently being imagined is something that doesn't exist and isn't close to existing.

          However, if you define "learn" as "adapting behavior according to past experience", then machines can certainly learn. They've been learning for a very long time. But learning does not require AI.

  • will they cover full data plans + roaming as this can really run that up. maybe even say 10GB satellite internet plans.

    also just hope that for fords and others don't rip people off on map updates / hdd upgrades.

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @11:57AM (#55349983)

    is self-driving cars that collect self-driving maps data for self-driving cars.

  • The Payver iPhone app is doing something similar. I've earned $30 already taking videos out the front of my windshield (woo hoo). Unfortunately it's iPhone only, and you have to supply your own mounting hardware, but it's an easy way to earn some lunch money. As a bonus you can tap the screen if you get in an "incident," and it will save before and after video.
  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @01:30PM (#55350723)
    What about areas without connectivity? If self driving cars *need* these maps to work then how will they ever work if you drive away from an internet connection?
    • How does a GPS navigation system work without internet connectivity? Answer: it has the map in memory. Likewise, the self-driving cars won't need an internet connection, they will have the map in memory.

      Gathering the map is another matter. They definitely need to upload the mapping data from their app at some time, but that does not have to be done in real-time. The app could just store the data and then upload it when connectivity is available.
      • So a car is going to have enough storage for every stop sign and traffic signal anywhere in a local database, and this will be kept up to date, how?
  • What, you couldn't include the name of the company in the headline?
    Clickbait is more important to you than conveying actual information?The dumbification of Slashdot is getting really irritating...

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