A rough map of all the world's roads can fit on a flash drive—and it's all that self-driving cars will need
One of the truisms of the self-driving car business is that you can’t begin to function properly without super-detailed, constantly updated digital maps that show buildings, trees, and other features.
That might seem no problem at all if you’re a Google spinoff called Waymo. After all, your corporate parent possesses vast mapping capabilities, and besides, you’re driving in your home turf—Mountain View, or maybe Phoenix. But how can even mighty Google map every last country lane, then freshen up the data every month or two, so a car won’t be surprised to find that a freshly planted cornfield is now knee-high?
“Maps for even a small city tend to be gigabytes; to scale to the whole country, you’d need incredibly high-speed connections and massive servers,” says Teddy Ort, a graduate student in robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “But for our approach, a global map could fit on a flash drive.”
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