According to Bloomberg, Waymo is working on a 3-D mapping project that it aims to license to automakers. But so far, automakers seem reluctant to hand over their dashboards to Waymo. Instead, dozens of companies, big OEMS as well as smaller start-ups like what3words, are working on their own solutions. “There probably have been 50 companies that mapped Las Vegas simply to do a CES drive,” Chris McNally, an analyst with Evercore ISI, told Bloomberg. These companies are willing to invest millions of dollars in new technology – a move that could payoff years later. If it pays off at all.
Two different mindsets compete. One is to create complete 3-D maps that let driverless cars navigate on their own. GM developed Super Cruise, the level 2 driver assistance system installed in the new Cadillac CT6, by mapping every mile of interstate roads in North America with a LIDAR sensor. Plenty of manpower is needed to keep these maps up to date. The other is a more cost-effective strategy to enhance them step-by-step and over time – like mapping company HERE does. Their system features in the new level 3 Audi A8. The downside is that experts don’t yet consider these maps to be accurate enough for fully automated driving.
The race is still wide open. Yet what we can expect is large-scale consolidation over the next few years. Because in the end, it won’t be any different to consumer maps. The winner doesn’t necessarily take it all. But they will cash in the largest amount of money, money, money.
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