VW developing new standardised mapping for driverless cars

One of the big problems with any emerging technology is that everyone wants to build their own standard. Chances are they all started off with noble claims of making the best product out there, but there’s not always agreement on what the best is. Mapping technologies for navigation and automated driving are a classic case of this, with everyone building their own ‘standard,’ making it very difficult for anyone to use others’ data or collaborate. However Volkswagon wants to change that, and has announced that it’s working on a new file format to provide a true standard for all navigation in the industry, letting everyone make use of its data.

This is all thanks to a partnership with telematics and navigation firm TomTom. Between them, the two companies want to make a new technology that will allow everyone to make smarter driverless vehicles, by tapping into the VW created file format for mapped roads. If successful, this could accelerate the uptake of automated technology across the industry, as one of the biggest problems at the moment is road mapping. Google’s cars are capable of fully automated driving, but only on 0.01 per cent of US roads, due to them being effectively mapped.

“Partnering with Volkswagen Group Research to develop the future of HAD reaffirms TomTom’s position as a key partner in the automotive market,” said Harold Goddijn, CEO TomTom (via ComputerWorld).

“TomTom’s mapping expertise provides the precise data and scalable technology platform needed to enable highly automated driving in cars.”


The new system is being termed the Navigation Data Standard. If created within the next couple of years and made widely available, it could really drive down prices on automated technologies, since a lot less scanning would be needed and developers could develop very simple stop-gap automated features.

With a standardised system, cars could send information to one another very easily, allowing cars further along a road to inform those further back about what is up ahead and whether it’s worthwhile to change lanes, leave the motorway and take a detour or slow down in-case of an accident. Without a standard data format for these different vehicles and systems to communicate over, automated technology could be held back many years.

On top of that, a universal standard would prevent some of the problems we’ve seen in other tech sectors from emerging. There would be no division between major manufacturers like Google and Apple, leaving the marketplace to be decided by the best technology and the best implementation, rather than who can circle their wagons the quickest. it also makes the landscape ripe for smaller startups to get on the scene, which keeps competition fresh and will assure that consumers get the best deals, rather than the manufacturers.

Of course, this is all if VW and TomTom are successful. We’ll have to keep an eye on their developments to see if that happens.

Image source: Mike Haller

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

    All author posts