In just a few short years, in-car navigation systems have quickly evolved from an uncommon luxury option to a mainstream feature in more vehicles than ever before. For OEMs, in-vehicle navigation is a high-margin automotive electronics item that enhances the driving experience, sells more vehicles, and potentially increases safety for the driver.
More than 6% of all new vehicles sold today are equipped with a factory-installed navigation system. As the power and sophistication of these devices increases, in-vehicle navigation, in a variety of forms and models, will likely become a near-standard feature in the vast majority of vehicles sold over the next several years.
However, despite the rapid adoption curve, significant obstacles and challenges remain as the market continues to mature. These hurdles include:
Long Lead Times for Data Release: The long lead-times required in building and shipping vehicle navigation systems for final assembly by automakers inherently mean that data is not up-to-date when it reaches the consumer. Latency periods of four to nine months between the release of data and the first use of that data by a consumer are not uncommon.
Updating Navigation Data: Navigational data providers are unable to "re-drive" every street each yearit's simply not cost-feasible. Today, it can take up to three years before a street is re-driven and any changes get captured and published. The time it takes to re-drive streets, compile data, and prepare it in proprietary formats for device manufacturers is extending lead times to unacceptable lengths. Point of Interest (POI) data is even more dynamic and volatile, leading to more out-of-date information and displays.
Integrating New Technologies: Current-generation DVD-based systems will soon give way to easier and more cost-effective technologies for storing, presenting, and updating navigation data. For instance, wireless data updates (whether through cellular networks, satellites, Bluetooth, or WiFi configurations) in combination with hard-disk drives can support more timely updates. As capacities of solid-state flash drives increase, they will become viable candidates for storing navigational data. Unanswered questions revolve around the adoption of standard form factors, capacities, and responsibility for applying updates
Costs: Today, it costs anywhere from $125 to $500 to perform an update to DVD-based navigation systems. Although those prices will continue to fall, the cost will likely continue to be an obstacle to frequent updates and fresh data.
Usability Factors: With new technologies underpinning navigation systems, manufacturers must define effective ways to ensure that updates are easy to apply. With CDs and DVDs, that's been a straightforward process. However, with hard-disk drives, consumers might be forced to update 30-40 GB of data (perhaps on all-in-one infotainment systems that hold movies and music as well). That could take hours to complete with attendant issues revolving around interruptions, data corruption, and more. These processes may become an issue for dealer service centers.
Many challenges exist in keeping navigation data freshbut there are many solutions to those challenges.
It's all about the data
Regardless of the way it stores data or the features it offersand those feature sets grow increasingly sophisticated every monththe quality of an in-vehicle navigation system is predicated on the freshness and precision of the mapping and POI data it displays. With the competing mandatory requirements of timeliness, accuracy, and lower cost, mapping-data providers are redefining their methods, processes, technologies, and paradigms for capturing, confirming, updating, processing, and publishing accurate data faster than ever before.
Relying exclusively on field-collection techniqueswheels on pavement, so to speakis far too costly, slow, and inefficient to support the rate of change in both streets and POIs. A far better strategy for collecting and confirming data involves a smarter mixture of search tools, satellite imagery, government data sources, utility and construction companies, and organizations that have large fleets of workers in vehicles (such as delivery drivers) who have their own GIS (geographic information system) staffs.
Tens of thousands of municipalities, counties, states, and the federal government are rich sources of street informationdata that can be used to update mapping and navigational data. In some cases, mapping vendors receive actual geometry or longitude/latitude data from zoning boards or engineering firms. The larger governments or firms often have authorization to make direct modifications to the vendor's mapping databases. In other cases, the updates come from text reports from parties with vested interests in mapping accuracy, such as utility companies.
Another useful way to capture detailed mapping data is through granular satellite imagery and aerial photography. If the resolution is high enough, these sources can yield accurate lane information, turn restrictions, and other specifics.
By using these data sources, mapping vendors can achieve broader coverage and greater accuracy in less time and at lower cost. Suppose, for example, if a new one-way street gets added to an established neighborhood in Boston. Instead of waiting years to re-drive that location and capture the change, a vendor can receive a notification from the Boston Zoning Commission and confirm it by examining recent aerial photography and corroborating that with a report from a telecommunications carrier. As a result, the database gets updated in just days.
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