Base map updating
Base map updating
And that's exactly the kind of maps that we deliver.”Currently, companies that are testing autonomous vehicles—such as Waymo (spun out of Google’s research division), Uber, General Motors, and others—have to make their own maps.It’s a painstaking process that requires people to drive vans equipped with sophisticated lidar (a combination of lasers and radar) equipment over designated roads in multiple passes to log every curb height, fire hydrant, and lane marking.
Though it might have seemed like an aimless outing, my brief sortie was anything but.The company has created a femur-sized plastic device called the S1, which has multiple cameras and sensors that goes over one’s dashboard and a single cable connecting it to the cigarette lighter for power. “It cost 0 to make, it’s composed of commodity parts, and it is designed so it can be easily installed in any car,” says Naikal.After installation, the Mapper app directs the driver to a predetermined route and tells him or her how quickly to go.Once Mapper develops its base map, it can make money not only from the autonomous car manufacturers but also from other customers who might make use of the world’s most detailed guide to roadways: utilities maintaining infrastructure, insurance companies looking for hazards, and, perhaps most intriguing of all, augmented reality ventures that might want to transform your road trip with a stream of personalized billboards.(As for privacy issues, Mapper says that it’s not going to collect information like license numbers or house addresses, though its customers may well do so on proprietary layers they develop on top of the Mapper base map.)“We feel that there might be use cases that we aren't even aware of,” says Naikal.The device is made by a San Francisco-based startup called Mapper, which comes out of stealth today after a year of development.
The company’s maps don’t resemble the classic gas station fold-outs, or even the ones made by Google or Apple that have supplanted them.Every centimeter I drove, every object I encountered, and even the double line I crossed to avoid the Brinks truck was being recorded by a device affixed across the top edge of the windshield, just above the rearview mirror.Soon, thousands of people might be installing those gadgets in their cars, hoping to make some extra bucks—and, in the process, contributing to the next great crowdsourced project: a ridiculously detailed and constantly updated map of the world’s roads, readable only by the vast swarm of self-driving cars that will populate our byways.(This passive mode also pays, but much less.) “This can be anyone who wants to have a side hustle, who wants to make a little bit of money on the side,” says Naikal.“It could be construction workers; it could be people that are just out on the street a lot, who want to have an ability to do something cool and get paid to do it.”Because a lot of the value that Mapper provides lies in updating the map—city streets might need refreshing at least once a week to reflect construction, new traffic patterns, and even grass growing higher—the work will be consistent.They are meant for machines, not humans, and when you see them rendered, they are made up of glowing pixels where objects, lane markers, and traffic signals are delineated by rough shapes and tell-tale colors.