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Road mapping with radar

Bosch’s radar road signature is compatible with all conventional map formats

Bosch has created a map using radar signals for automated driving
Bosch has created a map using radar signals for automated driving

Bosch, together with Dutch map and traffic information provider, TomTom, claims to be the first to use radar signals as a localisation layer for high-resolution maps for automated driving. Until now, video data has been used for this purpose.


Bosch’s “radar road signature” is made up of billions of individual reflection points which reflect off crash barriers or road signs and reproduce the course a road takes. The companies claim automated vehicles can use the constructed map to determine their exact location in a lane down to a few centimetres.


“The radar road signature is a milestone on the path towards automated driving. It will enable automated vehicles to reliably determine their location at all times,” said Dr Dirk Hoheisel, board of management member, Bosch.


According to the companies, the advantage of the radar road signature is its robustness: unlike maps that rely exclusively on video data for vehicle localisation, the radar road signature also works reliably at night and in conditions of poor visibility.


Moreover, the Bosch radar road signature only transmits five kilobytes of data to a cloud per kilometre. This data volume is twice as high using a video map. It is expected that by 2020 at the latest, the first vehicles will provide data for the radar road signature in Europe and the US.


The two companies have been working intensively on the radar road signature and its integration into TomTom’s high-resolution overall map since the beginning of their collaboration in July 2015.


Bosch specialises in the field of radar sensors with 77-gigahertz technology and detection ranges of up to 250 metres. By comparison, video sensors only have a maximum detection range of 150 metres.


The main challenge was finding a way to adapt existing radar sensors for this task. When used in a driver assistance system such as automatic emergency braking systems or adaptive cruise control (ACC), the sensors detect moving objects. But in order to generate the radar road signature, they also need to be able to detect static objects, which meant that existing radar sensors had to be modified.


The next generation of Bosch radar sensors will be able to provide the data required for the radar road signature.


“We are delighted to be able to introduce supplemental localisation data in the form of the radar road signature in partnership with Bosch. It will make self-localisation for automated vehicles considerably more robust in every respect,” added Harold Goddijn, CEO, TomTom.


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