German automotive technology supplier Bosch, and the Dutch map and traffic information provider TomTom have achieved a breakthrough in the development of high-resolution maps for automated driving, using a radar-based system.
Bosch has become the first developer worldwide to create a localization layer using radar signals, which will be indispensable for maps used by autonomous vehicles (AVs) that have previously been reliant on video-based data.
Bosch’s ‘radar road signature’ is made up of billions of individual reflection points. These are formed everywhere that radar signals hit, such as on crash barriers or road signs, and reproduce the course a road takes. AVs can use the map to determine their exact location in a lane down to a few centimeters.
The huge advantage of Bosch’s radar road signature is its robustness: unlike maps that rely exclusively on video data for vehicle localization, the radar road signature also works reliably at night and in conditions of poor visibility. The radar road signature only transmits 5KB of data to the cloud per kilometer, as opposed to twice that volume required by a video map. It is expected that by 2020 at the latest, the first vehicles will provide data for the radar road signature in Europe and the USA.
The two companies have been working intensively on the radar road signature and its integration into TomTom’s high-resolution overall map since the beginning of their collaboration in July 2015. Bosch’s radar sensors use 77GHz technology and offer detection ranges of up to 820ft (250m). In comparison, video sensors only have a maximum detection range of 492ft (150m). The collected radar data will be transferred via the cloud, and TomTom’s responsibilities will include integrating the radar road signature in the overall map and distributing it.
“The radar road signature is a milestone on the path toward automated driving. It will enable automated vehicles to reliably determine their location at all times,” said Dr Dirk Hoheisel, from Bosch’s management board. “We expect that we will need fleets for freeways in Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific that each consist of around one million vehicles to keep our high-resolution map up-to-date.”
TomTom’s CEO, Harold Goddijn, commented, “We are delighted to be able to introduce supplemental localization data in the form of the radar road signature in partnership with Bosch. It will make self-localization for automated vehicles considerably more robust in every respect.”