Why 3D maps are the future of autonomous driving Dieter Zetsche | 24th April 2017

There is no doubt: Driverless cars will be the greatest mobility revolution since Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the “horseless carriage” more than 130 years ago.

And the next big thing down the road to fully self-driving cars is this - literally ground-breaking - feature: map data as an additional source of information to look beyond sensors and cameras and ultimately see around corners. Cars that are driving on their own better know exactly where they are going and how to arrive there safely.

Maps as multidimensional source of information

Maps have huge potential to enhance safety and convenience on the road today. And they are one important “missing link” to self-driving vehicles tomorrow. For fully self-driving cars, maps technically need to be ultra-accurate and ultra-up-to-date. Imagine what happened if we had more than just a few sources for mapping the world? If every single car collected data on every mile it drove and continuously shared roadside information with others?

Considering that the mapping company HERE for instance has many different partners, including BMW, Audi and Daimler, this means: more than seven million new “scouts” out on the road globally every year.

They could all be collecting and sharing a massive amount of almost real-time data on roadwork, weather conditions, traffic, and more through one powerful mapping platform. At the same time, every vehicle would benefit from super-accurate, reliable and continuously updating high-definition map data.

Maps as personal assistants

On top, there is a second strong dimension to maps that gets me excited: In the future the map in your car may be supporting you like a really cool co-driver. One who really knows about your likes, habits and preferences – no matter if you drive or if the car does the driving. This way, your car will get to know more about you, but not to overwhelm you with information. Instead it will reduce distraction and get you the personalized, right and most relevant information in the right very moment – at a level of convenience that goes far beyond navigating from A to B.

Now, combining individualized map data with fully self-driving cars in the future leaves us with tremendous opportunities. If your car, for instance, knows your favorite bakery, it will get those fresh pastries you love for breakfast – even before you wake up! If your car knows your calendar, you’ll never have to think about taking Grandma to the dentist or picking up your laundry – your car is just going to do that for you. And there are infinitely more possible tasks cars will be able to take care of.

Maps as the beginning of a revolution

The bottom line is this: Maps have long been an enabler for personal mobility. Now, they’re becoming a key driver for the next mobility revolution. A revolution with a huge impact on all of us: Cars that park themselves outside the city will reduce the space needed downtown. As a result, cities will become cleaner, greener and more livable. Self-driving trucks and vans can do all delivery and logistics at night to reduce traffic and pollution. That’s why Daimler is also going to electrify trucks, vans and buses.

I am certain: We are on the road to a bright new future in mobility and maybe even a better world. It’s going to be an exciting ride.

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