Facet Builds New Street Centerline Database - How Does It Match Up to Current Digital Street Data?

By Joe Francica

Facet Technology Corporation could be the next NAVTEQ or Tele Atlas, at least for U.S. The company's new offering "includes the public roadways in the U.S. at high accuracy and includes full routing and connectivity." How do the data compare? Joe Francica questioned Andy Munyon, vice president of Business Development to find out.

Joe Francica (JF): You are engaged in capturing street centerlines for the U.S. similar to what NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas provide.
Did you start with a baseline digital database like TIGER and enhance the data?

Andy Munyon (AM):
No, we did not enhance existing data. SightMap was created from scratch from the multitude of miles that our collection vehicles have driven.

JF: Did you drive every street with your fleet of vehicles?

AM: We drive every street within our collection areas. By the end of 2008, we will have driven every road within the continental U.S. and Canada.

JF: You mention that SightMap is targeted at the LBS market. What are you seeing in the market that leads you to believe there is a need for higher accuracy for routing and navigation?

AM: While SightMap has higher spatial accuracy than existing data sources, this is not what will differentiate our product in the LBS and navigation markets. We see the LBS and navigation markets calling for more accurate and rich attribution.

JF: How are you intending to keep the street centerlines updated?

AM: We will keep our centerlines updated using a variety of methodologies. Our collection vehicles are on the road every day capturing new, and updating existing, data. Furthermore, we will use customer feedback and both public and private third party data providers to augment our ability to identify areas where updating is required. Once identified, we will send a collection vehicle to gather data that will be updated in the SightMap database.

JF: The key differentiator between your product and the two leading digital street vendors appears to be accuracy. How much more accurate is your data and how have you verified this?

AM: Our navigation and LBS dataset spatial accuracy will set a new benchmark for digital map data providers. Our accuracy specifications have been validated by multiple customers. Beyond accuracy, our attribution data and price will set us apart. SightMap was created using new processes that are very different from how maps have been made in the past. The efficiencies in our methodology will result in lower licensing fees for our customer, in comparison to the current pricing environment.

For the ADAS [advanced driver assistance systems] market, sub-meter accuracy and elevation (z) data differentiates our dataset. Current industry-accepted accuracy specifications for ADAS data will not, in our opinion, support future map-to-machine interfaces in vehicles.

JF: You list several patents for 3D object generation. Can you explain the applications that you intend to develop?

AM: Our content is very suitable for 3D object generation, and our patents are a key component in the automation of 3D model creation. We do not offer a 3D product. Our customers can license content and patents to create their own 3D models using our imagery.

JF: You also list a patent for "Method and Apparatus for Multi-image Analysis." How will this technology be integrated with your digital street database?

AM: Our image analysis patents provide key portions of our workflow for content creation. In addition, they will be fundamental building blocks for vehicle safety systems and autonomous vehicle features. The attribution for our ADAS sets will include information about signage, signals, barriers, crosswalks, etc. The sensor systems on board the vehicles will capture information from the surroundings and make decisions about warnings to be relayed to the driver or changes to be made in the handling of the vehicle. Our patented approaches for acquiring sensor data on board the vehicle and interpreting the sensor data are necessary elements for the map-to-machine interface.

JF: Do you intend to license your technology to various LBS application developers? Can you tell me who has shown the greatest interest so far? Or will you market directly to carriers and device manufacturers?

AM: We intend to license our technology to all map data users. We're under NDAs [non-disclosure agreements] with all of our customers at this time. Unfortunately, we can't comment on current or future customers at this time.

JF: You are integrating intersection imagery into SightMap. Is your image library from only primary roads? Will you be expanding this image database?

AM: Our image library includes 360-degree imagery from all roads we have driven, not just primary roads. In addition to intersection images, we also have imagery of a large number of POIs, addresses/parcels, road assets, ramps, etc. Anything that you can see from a vehicle, we capture with our cameras. The database is constantly expanding, 365 days a year. We currently have well over 2 billion images in the library.

What will be your next steps in product evolution?

AM: For the navigation and LBS markets, our next step will be to expand coverage into Europe and Canada. For the ADAS market, we will be focusing on increasing our accuracy to the decimeter level for future ADAS applications and augmenting existing attribution.

Published Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Written by Joe Francica

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