On the Self-Driving Car's Taste in Maps

The navigational software of successful driverless cars will make Google Maps seem like child's play. But can such a system replace or improve upon human instinct and adaptability?
March 19, 2015, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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If the driverless car becomes a reality, its mapping programs will require far more subtlety than Google Maps for the human driver. Emily Badger reports on the challenges autonomous vehicles might face. 

As self-driving cars face the open road, the devil is in the details. From the article: "When cars are processing this information, each lane must be individually modeled. The car will need to know that you can't turn left from the right lane (or right from the left lane). Such maps would have to include the slope and precise curvature of each little bit of roadway, as well as the elevation (so that, for instance, a car knows where it is and what to do here). These maps would have to convey which roads travel one-way at rush hour, and exactly when, which intersections have stop signs instead of stop lights, which streets have bike lanes and on-street parking. They'll need to know the exact width of each lane, and every change in lane markings."

Companies such as HERE are developing software to encode and continually update this information, drawing on sensors mounted on driverless cars themselves. Of course, whether such a system can ever reliably replace the human driver is up for debate. 

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Published on Monday, March 9, 2015 in The Washington Post - Wonkblog
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