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back to article We go joyriding in the Google Maps-killer's ROBO-CAR

Nokia's HERE wants to leapfrog Google's Street View with an ambitious street scanning based on 3D and "big data". While Google enjoyed a monopoly on street level images for years, having a first move advantage isn't always a blessing. The latest technology allows for much richer and more interactive maps. HERE is deploying …

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Oh nice

Oh nice.

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Re: Oh nice

5 thumbs down for saying I like cool technology?

On a technology board?

Having a derp kinda of day, are we?

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Meh

Re: Oh nice

Sorry ecofeco (although I wasn't one of the thumbs down) but you have to understand;

Saying 'Oh nice' is acceptable if only it didn't seem like attention seeking behavior of a 'Yeah, I am first poster! Look at me!' kind of way.

If you are posting on a tech board, come up with some tech comment saying what you like about it. More people will tend to agree with your comment other than agreeing with the fact that you like the article, see?

Regarding the article: I am happy Google is finally facing competition. Maybe they will raise the stakes again.

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Flying the flag for Windows Phone

I do love having free access to as much worldwide offline HERE mapping data as I can stuff into my phone, free.

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Looks like a Surface Pro

I wonder if they knew someone who had a lot of spare ones going cheap

More seriously, I'm glad to see this - Nokia's mapping/gps contributions have always been extremely good, and I look forward to seeing the results of this - serious competition for streetview (Although Microsoft's Street isn't bad, even if they haven't obscured the numberplate on my car very well)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Looks like a Surface Pro

"(Although Microsoft's Street isn't bad, even if they haven't obscured the numberplate on my car very well)"

You do realize that Nokia Here aka Navteq provided the data to Microsoft?

(Although I think Microsoft bought the cars... )

This really isn't new... Just that the automation means 1 person in the car instead of two, which cuts down on the cost to acquire data...

I'm kind of surprised that they let this much information out... normally very tight lipped on the tech stuff...

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The best maps on a mobile by far

Nokia maps: the main reason I still use an ageing Nokia phone (N8).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The best maps on a mobile by far

I recently used their maps app on a Nokia Lumia in Spain. It was hopeless: it routed me down a dead end into a quarry, whereas Google Maps + Navigation worked a treat on the same route. HERE maps might be better in some places, but worse in others. And you need good software behind it otherwise you're wasting your time (and money) making a 'better' map.

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I'd be uber impressed if they can catch up with Google. They'll get nowhere close... the sheer number of android handsets in circulation that feedback traffic flow data is a tough hurdle to overcome. Just so useful...

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Most of the traffic data comes from a publicly available feed from traffic master.

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Anonymous Coward

"Most of the traffic data comes from a publicly available feed from traffic master."

It's more like "commercially available", surely?

And what happens if you're outside TrafficMaster coverage ? Mind you, their UK coverage is pretty decent these days relative to when I had my first YQ gadget. Dunno what they're like outside the UK. Do people have traffic congestion outside the UK? (I know Paris does, but let's leave Paris out of this for now).

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"Most of the traffic data comes from a publicly available feed from traffic master."

Sorry I don't believe that is true in this case. Android handset report their position while turned on and this is collated into traffic flow data. Good luck competing with the sheer volume of data! nom nom data at the chocolate factory.

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Anonymous Coward

WTF?

I'd be uber impressed if they can catch up with Google. They'll get nowhere close... the sheer number of android handsets in circulation that feedback traffic flow data is a tough hurdle to overcome. Just so useful...

Uhm... you do realize that Nokia (HERE) also owns Traffic.com right?

I just love how these Google bigots don't do their homework...

Just saying!

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Re: WTF?

Looking near me (small US city, circa 150,000 people), traffic.com shows no slowdowns. Google lists several small areas where local roads do typically get congested as yellow or red.

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Huh?

Surely, minding this rig is worse than using a mobile phone when driving?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Huh?

But at least with this car, you'd imagine there would be plenty of photographic evidence to point out who is at fault.

An alleged example: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/30/who_killed_bambi/

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I can't explain why, but on the face of it this all looks wonderful, but I still can't help feeling a little underwhelmed - I'm sure the results will be very impressive, but until they get anywhere near the sheer coverage which Google Street View has, will many/any use it, apart from die-hard Google-haters?

Also, Google aren't stupid, who knows what they have brewing in the Chocolate Factory in this area... either way, it is all quite exciting for us, the consumers!

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Agreed, at least in the UK google has street view on pretty much every road in the UK which is open to traffic. Even the tiny single track country lanes you would think most wouldn't bother with; they're there.

I hope Nokia have similar ambitions, as just mapping cities and major roads won't cut it.

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There's more to mapping than photos.

Where both are available (Central London, for instance), HERE's street level is superior to Google StreetView. The resolution is currentlylower on Nokia's offer, but the mapping of photo images to buildings is much more accurate, so there's less distortion of the view, and no "stitching" errors.

Google aren't stupid, but mapping is a loss-leader for them - they don't sell the data to anyone else, just use it as a platform to sit an advertising business on top of. As long as their service is good enough, and widespread enough, it doesn't matter if someone else is doing it better. They make maps, but they're not cartographers - the maps are detailed, but the information is not correct in many cases (administrative boundaries are wrong, private lanes are presented as public roads).

HERE, on the other hand is a cartography business. Their mapping data is used by Amazon (Kindle Fire), Microsoft (Bing), Facebook, Garmin and about 90% of in-car navigation systems, so there are paying customers to be satisfied. When you pay for something, you demand more improvements than when you get it for free. This alone will drive their progress faster than Google.

Also, HERE are also capturing far more information than Google. Google just took photos, HERE (isn't it a stupid name, though?) is gathering far, far more data about the surrounding environment: the use of LIDAR creates a 3D model of the surrounding terrain as the car drives through. ( see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGcKcAbvzvc, or this video at 2'00" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz6qtaHqxX4 )

This allows them to measure road widths, bridge heights, and other factors which are of use to navigation. They also take information about road gradients, signage and lane markings, which are used for the next generation of in-car systems. And this isn't just sat-nav: the Rolls Royce Wraith uses GPS and terrain data as inputs to its automatic transmission, so that the car can change gears before encountering a hill for instance; and the adaptive cruise system used in Audi's new A8 knows when you're approaching motorway exits, and adapts the cruise distance limits accordingly to allow for last-minute exit or entry by other cars without sharp braking.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's more to mapping than photos.

"This alone will drive their progress faster than Google."

History doesn't tally with this. Google StreetView coverage: awesome (and has been very good for a long time). NAVTEQ/HERE/Nokia equivalent: not in the same ballpark.

HERE is in the cartography business and are paid by Garmin, automotive customers, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. But is the combined map licensing budget of all these customers deeper than Google's pockets for mapping? If it were, then surely HERE's coverage would already be ahead of Google's?

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Re: There's more to mapping than photos.

Google just took photos

oh no, let's not go THERE again...

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@ Kristian Walsh

All sounds great, except I just looked (for the first time) at my area on here.com, and found that my side street isn't mapped! Granted, the flats have only been here for 50 years or so, but still....

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Re: There's more to mapping than photos.

A lot of what you say is true, however Google has been toying with LIDAR for a while.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's more to mapping than photos.

Funny, but what you just described would be Google acting as a monopoly, using their search money to undermine competition in phones and in the maps business.

They are even doing this in laptop and tablets too. (Hint: When you give the OS away for free and sell the hardware essentially at cost... ;-)

There's more to producing a map than just the underlying tech. Talk to anyone who's left Navteq and they could probably tell you a couple of stories.

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Legal?

Is it actually legal to have all that kit supervised by the guy who is supposed to have all his attention concentrated on the road? Particularly since the hardware is parked in the passengers seat. If I see a 'Here' car, I'll make sure that there's a large tree 'twixt he and me.

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have they fixed the actual map?

<checks>. Nope, the actual map still would result in my trying to enter the Turnpike (which it now calls 'FL-91'; yes, that is the official name, but NOBODY CALLS IT THAT) from the middle of an overpass which has no on or off ramps. If I were silly enough to actually use it, that is.

Wake me up when they fix the maps.

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JDX
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HERE says it's only recording the GPS locations of open Wi-Fi hotspots

Why do they record them at all? Is it for use as fixed reference points?

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Re: HERE says it's only recording the GPS locations of open Wi-Fi hotspots

It's used for AGPS where the A is Assisted. Basically if your phone hasn't locked onto any (or not enough) satellites, you can find your location fairly accurately by looking at the relative strengths of all the wifi networks in range where you are and comparing to a precomputed database.

Presumably these things go out of date though fairly often?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: HERE says it's only recording the GPS locations of open Wi-Fi hotspots

You can sell the geo-located WiFi signal data to people (read: smartphone manufacturers, app makers, digital camera makers, etc.) who don't want to install (money) and / or run (battery) a GPS chipset all the time, but do want a vague clue of where they are. Also, in big cities, GPS works badly due to poor view of the sky and all the GPS signal bouncing off of buildings. In some cases WiFi positioning could be more reliable. The combination of GPS and a WiFi positioning could be quite effective.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: HERE says it's only recording the GPS locations of open Wi-Fi hotspots

Why do they record them at all? Is it for use as fixed reference points?

Precisely.

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Re: HERE says it's only recording the GPS locations of open Wi-Fi hotspots

Why do they record them at all? Is it for use as fixed reference points?

tl;dr: Yes.

A GPS fix takes time to acquire - maybe up to 2 minutes - and can fail altogether if the receiver can't see enough sky.

(Phone) base station info is virtually immediate, but low resolution: usually +/- a kilometre or two. With a corpus of wifi hotspots, an intermediate Location Service can triangulate the receiver's position really quite well, and gets better in the sorts of locations where GPS performance fares less well (cities with buildings blocking the sky, but full of hotspots).

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Re: HERE says it's only recording the GPS locations of open Wi-Fi hotspots

When you are out and about with your phone and wifi on it can see what networks it spots and know your GPS location without needing to actually get the GPS fix.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: HERE says it's only recording the GPS locations of open Wi-Fi hotspots

They use wifi location to augment GPS for positioning - i.e. they know where wifi points are which enables smartphones to locate themselves more accurately or when GPS is not available.

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Anonymous Coward

occluded objects

I have used LIDAR data when scanning film sets for visual effects. There is a lot of data which usually needs quite a bit of manual clean-up. Also, if they are scanning from a car moving along the street, they will obviously only get line-of-sight data - whereas this data will be 3D coordinates, the coverage will be the same as 2D photos from the same p.o.v. There will no 3D data for anything that is obscured from the scanner. So, you will not be able to view a 3D street from above and any deviation from the scanner p.o.v. is likely to reveal big gaps in the data or stretched images.

So it will be interesting how they use the 3D data beyond mapping the 2D photos onto 3D p.o.v geometry which will only work for small deviations from the scanned p.o.v.

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Re: occluded objects

Aerial LIDAR imaging and satellite photography fill in the other details.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emKttWFcJ_g - for a layman's guide.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: occluded objects

You would be surprised at the data that is actually captured and the amount of detail. To your point... while there may be some occluded objects... you would be surprised at what they can do to fill the space in. ;-)

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Zot
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Will they be using Euclideon to render it?

Their latest video:

http://youtu.be/Irf-HJ4fBls

As for the gaps behind some objects, I don't think it really matters, as the main advantage with point clouds is the ability to measure buildings, roads and street furniture with amazing accuracy.

Also, objects standing on their own will be looked around as the car passes, so quite a lot of positions will be caught due to the many vantage points from which the data is gathered.

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1.21 jiggawatts?!

looks like the lightning-rod hook in back to the future

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Same reason Google does - to do triangulated near-by-WiFI to lat/long conversion without waiting for GPS to warm up.

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Just as a comparison, in 2012 google has 1,100 people working full time in maps division and a further 6,000 contractors working on updates and processing the new and existing data. Add to that 7 year lead time in gathering the data plus one of the worlds most powerful AI processing the data it might be a while before anything close to detail that google maps can supply. Don't forget that google maps is also linked into their search engine so you only need to say the name of a business or POI and it will search the address and direct you there.

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"[Nokia] Location & Commerce has almost 7,000 employees worldwide. This includes around 5,000 NAVTEQ and 2,000 Nokia Services employees. Of the total employees approximately 4,500 work on Content with the remainder mainly split between Platforms and Apps."

(source: http://www.just-auto.com/analysis/qa-with-nokia_id122541.aspx )

That sounds like two similarly-sized organisations to me.

POIs are present, and searchable from Nokia's system, including driving directions. Every business with a Facebook page is a POI in the HERE database, although Google are still ahead on POIs , especially in the USA.

HERE has the advantage in 3D, ability to work from offline storage, and while their data is usually older, it appears to be verified better than Google's is. Google on the other hand have more POIs, StreetVIew and are faster to respond to new development. Outside of urban centres, HERE's aerial images are better than Google's. Otherwise, Google is slightly better. There's no clear winner. For example, all the house numbers in my neigbourhood are wrong on Google Maps, but correct in HERE - this doesn't mean its worse everywhere, just in a place that I know: I am well aware that given two mapping databases it's easy to cherrypick localised areas where one is better than another.

Google's reliance on AI is because they're working from panoramic 2D images which provide less input data than LIDAR + panoramas. If you can measure the distances and dimensions as you go, you don't need to spend time and effort to extract them from photographs. The two companies' needs are different: Google is happy with "enough to identify the address"; HERE has paying customers that need additional information about headroom, clearance, passing distances or other obstructions.

I really don't understand the mentality of "Oh no, this is never going to be any good, because Google are in this business". As a customer, it's better for you to have competition between service providers than to give one provider an effective monopoly and let them abuse it, or forever have to satisfy yourself with something that was cool five years ago but hasn't moved on since then, simply because it's offered by your favourite vendor. Google's next revision of StreetView collection will exceed what HERE is doing now, but I can guarantee you that if HERE wasn't raising the bar, Google wouldn't bother.

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Anonymous Coward

Just to add what K. Walsh said...

You do realize that Navteq was one of the providers to Google before Google started their own fleet?

Also both Navteq and Google have been playing with Lidar for a while. Even with LIDAR there is still a lot of post processing that occurs. Also a lot of post processing and validation on the raw map data as well.

(How much, I can't say... )

WIth respect to addressing... its not a simple thing to fix. (I kinda know something about it.) Accuracy on addressing will vary country by country.

Obviously I'm limited to what I can say, but that Navteq still has some very talented people in 425 W. Randolf and 500 W. Madison. ;-)

I just have to wonder that after Microsoft buys Nokia's phone biz, if Apple doesn't make a play for what's left...

If not... maybe Nokia spends some cash on Jolla ... ;-) [My guess and its a bit tongue in cheek...]

Posted Anon for obvious reasons...

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Megaphone

Anyone notice?

No IPAD used here.

Love the fact that a MS Surface Pro is being used. We've to two and I'm ordering one of the Gen II for myself shortly. 8 gigs of ram with 256 SSD competes more closely with MB than an Ipad IMO.

When you need to get some work done...you use the right tool for the job.

Also a fan of the VW Jetta. Guessing its a TDI clean diesel.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Anyone notice?

Just a guess...

There's a bit more processing going on in the car. Why a Surface? Hmmm. When someone gives you a billion dollars to use their OS for your phone... you tend to want to keep that partner happy.

Not to mention costs, or the fact that Nokia has a lot of Windows PCs in their corporation. Just a handful of engineers have Macs and there are a couple of iPads running around the offices.

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FAIL

Clearance 3M / 11FT. WTF?

Conversion table supplied by NASA?

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Re: Clearance 3M / 11FT. WTF?

Uhm...

That tag is so the driver knows the amount of clearance he has in terms of over passes.

3 meters = 9 feet, 10 inches and roughly 1/8"

So if an overpass says 11 feet you know you're ok. Less than that... oops. And trust me you don't want to break the boom and the equipment. ;-)

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3 metres 11 feet

For a project that is all about measuring positions and distances accurately, I find it a little alarming that the monitor screen's height warning label thinks three metres is eleven feet.

Unless the metre has been re-specified since I last checked, three of them is a bit less than ten feet.

So what else are they getting wrong?

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Lidar

That unit is a Velodyne HDL32. Neat device, it has 32 indvidual laser diode, reviever diode pairs. I can vouch for the precision being 2cm as advertised but not so the accuracy. It may have changed but is was necissary to calibrate each one of those 32 channels to get them to all report the same range. After calibration it was accurate.

Velodyne is a bit of an odd company. They started making audio stuff and almost as a lark decided to make a Lidar (Ladar) product.

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So all we need now

Is some good matrix type action as the car passes and we are good to go

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