Volkswagen and Mobileye to use ‘swarm data’ for autonomous vehicle mapping


Volkswagen and Mobileye have signed an agreement to create new ‘super navigation data’ for autonomous driving using crowd-sourced ‘swarm’ intelligence gathered from the auto maker’s fleet.

Representatives of the two companies, Dr Herbert Diess, chairman of Volkswagen’s board, and Professor Amnon Shashua, chairman and chief technology officer of Mobileye, signed a wide-ranging cooperation agreement that will see the two companies take the next step toward autonomous driving. Volkswagen and Mobileye are planning to implement a new navigation standard for autonomous driving, starting in 2018. Future Volkswagen models will use Mobileye’s Road Experience Management (REM) camera-based map and localization technology. In the future, both will jointly collect data and use this for a new generation of highly intelligent maps. The agreement is the first of its kind to merge the data of different automobile manufacturers worldwide to create a single ‘high-definition world map’, which the companies hope will form an industry-wide standard.

Israel-based Mobileye is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of technologies for accident prevention and autonomous driving, with REM being one of its latest systems. It uses crowd-sourced data from many cars (the swarm) to generate real-time information for precise localization and acquisition of high-definition track data, making REM an elementary information level for autonomous driving. New Volkswagen cars, which are equipped with front cameras, acquire lane markings and road information via optical sensor systems from Mobileye, and this information will flow in compressed format into a cloud.

The fleet data will be used for continuous improvement of high-definition navigation maps with highly precise localization capability. These, in turn, will serve as a foundation for autonomous driving and advanced development of many assistance systems. The Volkswagen brand is present in more than 150 markets throughout the world and produces vehicles at over 50 locations in 14 countries. In 2016, Volkswagen produced about 5.99 million vehicles, sold through 7,700 dealerships globally.

“The future of autonomous driving depends on the ability to create and maintain precise high-definition maps and scale them at minimal cost,” said Shashua. “The Volkswagen agreement is a turning point. It not only uses crowd-sourcing technology to automatically generate high-definition maps and scale them cost-effectively, a much more important aspect is that the agreement provides a framework for industry-wide cooperation between automobile manufacturers to jointly produce the map contents that are needed for autonomous driving.”

Dr Frank Welsch, Volkswagen’s board member responsible for development, commented, “Every day millions of Volkswagen vehicles drive on our streets. Many of them are equipped with sensors to monitor the surroundings. We can now utilize this swarm to obtain various anonymized environmental data related to traffic flow, road conditions and available parking places, and we can make this highly up-to-date data available in higher-level systems. More services are planned which will be able to utilize this data and make car driving and mobility easier with greater convenience and comfort overall. Not only our customers will benefit from this collaborative work.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).