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TomTom highlights autonomous vehicle push

To grab a larger piece of the burgeoning connected and autonomous vehicle markets, digital mapmaker TomTom launched its self-driving test vehicle and is integrating navigation and diagnostic capabilities in the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform.

While the company has tested the technology for years, TomTom officially announced the availability of its own autonomous test vehicle, which Arnold Meijer, TomTom strategic manager, business development, said is a critical advantage to quickly develop maps and services for that industry.

“We can continuously test our mapping technology on the roads, get insights and high-quality data on how it performs in a multitude of circumstances and, right away, feed this into our AI-driven mapmaking process,” he said.

Currently, the vehicle is testing TomTom’s high-definition map; a crowd-sourced map update called Roadagrams; and a map-streaming service, AutoStream, which will deliver map data to vehicles on demand.

The company announced in September at the International Motor Show (IAA 2019) in Frankfurt, Germany, that its digital maps have doubled to more than 1 million Level 1 and Level 2 autonomous vehicles from several automakers.

Showcasing TomTom HD Maps

At IAA 2019, TomTom also demonstrated proof-of-concept high-definition map features that can work through Microsoft Azure cloud services, Meijer said. “Some of the navigation intelligence, which also includes traffic information and HD map services, can also be used in vehicles for navigation apps, as well as context while driving autonomously,” he said.

The demonstration allows TomTom to send telemetry data to Microsoft Azure. “[This includes] application usage data such as what menu items the end-user clicked on and what screens of the TomTom NavApp they opened for app analytics purposes,” he said.

Other features include GPS location during a driving simulation, vehicle speed and heading for driver behavior, and usage of apps that are not navigation-related, such as for music. Other testing included road speed limit, the number of times users drive a planned route, destination details planned by a user, and travel time.

TomTom navigation integrated into the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform allows automakers to quickly access precise navigation and driving behavior, “while of course adhering to TomTom’s privacy principles,” Meijer said. “This data could, for instance, be used to predict the range of an electric vehicle based on driving behavior and planned route more accurately. Or to work out, based on navigation behavior, what connectivity package for online navigation would be best suited for a driver.”

The TomTom test vehicle prototype hits the road in San Francisco. (Photo: Kevin Dennehy)

The TomTom test vehicle prototype hits the road in San Francisco. (Photo: Kevin Dennehy)

Voyage Forges Ahead…

While recent press reports have said autonomous vehicle development is slowing because of technology limitations and consumer doubt, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Voyage has raised millions of dollars and continues to test self-driving cars in retirement communities in California and Florida.

The company recently raised $31 million in Series B funding from Franklin Templeton, Khosla Ventures, Jaguar Land-Rover’s InMotion Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures. Voyage has raised a total of $52 million since its 2017 founding, said Oliver Cameron, company co-founder and CEO.

With the new funding, Cameron said the company hopes to triple its workforce, increase its second-generation fleet of self-driving cars, invest more in the technology and roll out a third-generation vehicle.

See the GPS World cover story about Voyage here.

“We are taking a unique, focused approach to delivering truly driverless cars in communities where there are limited mobility options, customers who need an autonomous ride-hailing service, and lower speeds,” he said. “Many residents within our communities don’t have access to transportation options that work for them, so they’ve welcomed our fleet of self-driving vehicles. We’ve started with self-driving cars that can travel point-to-point within our communities at speeds of up to 25 mph.”

Cameron said the community-based approach allows the company to quickly design and deploy autonomous technology. “For the past two years, because we are taking this focused, community-based approach to designing and deploying advanced self-driving car technology, progress has been rapid. Our vehicles intelligently and autonomously navigate the complex neighborhoods of our communities and safely transport our passengers door-to-door,” he said.

The company said its engineers are transitioning software to a safety-critical middleware, shipping a new prediction engine with better capabilities and creating triple redundancy in the vehicle’s perception system.

G3 Vehicle? Not Yet. Voyage, which began testing self-driving with a retrofitted Ford Fusion, doesn’t have a timetable planned for a third-generation system, Cameron said. Instead, the company plans to continue to use the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan in its testing projects.

“Before we launch our [third generation] self-driving car, we are going to build and scale more G2 self-driving cars to better serve the communities in which we operate. We haven’t announced a timeframe for the launch of our electric, truly driverless and highly scalable G3 self-driving car,” he said.

The company is growing its ranks as it has hired its first chief operations officer, Nina Qi. She believes the biggest hurdle autonomous vehicles have is the basic challenge to deliver safe and cost-effective services to make the industry economically sustainable.

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