European researchers have designed an innovative new
system to help
keep motorists on the right track by constantly updating their digital
maps and fixing anomalies and errors. Now the partners are mapping the
best route to market.
The 'oddly enough' sections of newspapers regularly feature amusing
stories of GPS mayhem. For instance, one lorry driver in Poland had
such confidence in his positioning device that he ignored several signs
warning that a road had been closed to make way for an artificial
reservoir and drove straight into the lake!
In addition to providing a cautionary tale about investing too much
faith in technology, this amusing anecdote highlights a more mundane
and daily challenge: how to reflect the constantly shifting topography
of Europe's road network.
A large number of digital maps used by onboard GPS navigation systems
are stored on DVDs or hard disks, with periodic updates only available
on replacement disks. In addition, advanced driver assistance systems
(ADAS) - such as adaptive cruise control (ACC) and lane-keeping systems
(LKS) - are beginning to make more extensive use of digital maps. Given
the safety dimension of ADAS applications, it is crucial that digital
maps are highly accurate.
Some interactive solutions have made it to market. One example is the
EU-backed ActMAP project which developed mechanisms for online,
incremental updates of digital map databases using wireless technology.
The system helps to shorten the time span between updates
significantly. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement in
terms of detecting map errors, changes in the real world, or monitoring
highly dynamic events like local warnings automatically. Addressing
these ever-changing realities requires a radical rethink of the applied
The assumption behind ActMAP and other systems is that the supplier is
responsible for all updates. However, this approach overlooks a
valuable source of information: the motorists who use the navigation
systems themselves. If anomalies found by road users could be
automatically sent to the supplier, this could be used as a valuable
supplementary source of information to iron out irregularities in maps
and beam them back to the users.
This bottom-up approach is the basic premise of FeedMAP, which has been
designed to work in a loop with ActMAP. This means that, when the
reality on the ground does not correspond with the digital map in the
system, these so-called map deviations are automatically compiled into
a map deviation report which is picked up by roadside sensors and
relayed back to the supplier. The driver can also report anomalies
(s)he encounters manually.
"Of course, FeedMAP will obviously not act as an unconditional map
update generator. The last verification will always remain to be done
by the map centres using their other sources of information," notes
Maxime Flament of ERTICO - ITS Europe, a multi-stakeholder organisation
pursuing the development and deployment of intelligent transport
systems and services.
FeedMAP's versatility and potential for fine-tuning means that it not
only can help keep maps up to date, but it can also be used in numerous
ADAS applications, including adaptive speed recommendations which
advise drivers about speed limits on the road ahead, and speed
deviation detection which updates recommended speeds based on feedback
from actual driver behaviour.
FeedMAP can also be integrated into fuel-saving applications, which
will be good for the environment and good for motorists' wallets as
Mapping the road to market
The system has been extensively tested and FeedMAP was found to be both
technically and commercially feasible.
"Based on already existing business models, the FeedMAP concept can be
brought to market," concludes Bengt Thomas of NAVIGON, a partner in the
project. "The clear benefit for map suppliers is the availability of a
constant stream of deviation reports to improve their map quality. As
the improvements will be shared with all customers, it will result, in
the longer run, in better map products for the whole market."
The FeedMAP partners considered three possible business models. The
most promising one, which they believe is worth pursuing, focuses on
bundling FeedMAP with the other services already offered by car
manufacturers, while the actual management of the data and updates
would be carried out by so-called FeedMAP service centres.
"Automotive manufacturers already offer connected services in their
vehicles, therefore the basic communication infrastructure is available
for sending and receiving map data," says Jan Loewenau of BMW Research
FeedMAP partners - including Daimler, BMW, Volvo Trucks and FIAT's
research centre - are so positive about the results of the project that
they have decided to run with it by integrating it into the ActMAP
system. "The complete FeedMAP/ActMAP loop of map data is the next
cornerstone for map-based applications, such as navigation and ADAS
safety," concludes Flament.
FeedMAP was funded by the ICT strand of the EU's Sixth Framework
Programme for research.