Autonomous vehicles are going to need detailed maps of the world if they want to carefully get around, and TomTom wants to be one of the companies to provide those. It's starting to work with auto parts maker Bosch to develop road maps for self-driving vehicles. By the end of the year, TomTom wants to cover "all freeways and freeway-like roads in Germany," before eventually expanding to Europe and North America. There's no timeline for getting through those areas, but Bosch suggests they're shooting for the end of the decade. "Only with high precision maps will automated driving on freeways be possible from 2020," Dirk Hoheisel, a Bosch board member, says in a statement.
The maps are already being tested on public roads
Bosch is in charge of the specifications that TomTom's maps will need to adhere to. It's also putting cars on the road to test the maps out. That's apparently already happening in the US, on I-280, and Germany, on A81.
TomTom says that these new maps have to be much more detailed than its traditional maps. Their precision has to be down to the decimeter, and they also have to include enough information that a car can determine which lane it's in and where it'll see different road features, like signs and dividers. The two companies plan to have either mapping or self-driving vehicles report any changes they identify up to a central server, which will then be able to inform other vehicles for safety purposes and efficiency. It seems like TomTom and Bosch will try to sell these maps and autonomous driving equipment out to other companies, but they haven't said where the venture will lead just yet. Still, it seems like a better possible future than TomTom's GPS business now that cars and smartphones all have the feature built in.