Google Maps Competitor Creates System to Detect a Major Cause of Slowdowns

Let's be honest about it: crowdsourcing is a brilliant idea that helps motorists stay up-to-date about what's happening on the road at any given time.
HERE tackles roadworks slowdowns 9 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/
Waze on CoolwalkWaze on CoolwalkWaze on CoolwalkWaze on CoolwalkWaze on CoolwalkWaze on CoolwalkWaze on CoolwalkHow HERE's system would work
Waze is living proof on this front, as the application allows users to report what happens on the road. The received information generates warnings for the other motorists, helping make every trip more predictable.

At the same time, Waze improves its routing model, generating faster routes to a destination by avoiding the regions where users are more likely to encounter slowdowns.

Of course, Waze is most effective in those places where its users can report traffic conditions, though the application also collects certain data automatically. If the app is running, even without navigation enabled, Waze gathers and uploads traffic data to a server, helping the application build historical models that are then used for routing.

But despite the crowdsourcing engine, Waze still can't be 100 percent accurate when it comes to identifying road incidents.

Waze on Coolwalk
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution
Navigation expert HERE has come up with a new idea specifically supposed to help deal with a major cause of slowdowns. The company, whose products are often considered top Google Maps alternatives, has developed a system to automatically identify work zones on a map and then help the other vehicles on the road reduce the impact on travel time.

In other words, HERE wants to determine the location of roadworks, inform the other motorists, and give other vehicles enough time to react accordingly without any sort of user input.

Sure enough, such an approach can produce a wide range of benefits, but the most obvious is the reduced impact a work zone can have on traffic conditions. Nobody likes sitting in traffic due to roadworks, so by knowing in advance that a possible slowdown could occur ahead, drivers get more time either to use the right lane or to switch to a different route.

HERE's automatic system relies on vehicle sensors, as they can collect information and send it to a central server for additional processing. Needless to say, cameras are the ones playing the core role, as they can detect certain roadworks signals, such as street signs. However, the technology can also import data from other sensors to detect the slowdowns, and then, using the processed information, it can accurately determine whether they have been caused by work zones or not.

Once the system establishes the location of roadworks, it can notify the other vehicles on the road before they reach the same point. The warning can be sent to autonomous vehicles, providing them with the necessary time to adjust the route accordingly. For example, a self-driving car can change lanes in such a way that the slowdown would be reduced or eliminated completely. If this isn't possible and the navigation system determines an alternative route that is also faster, the self-driving vehicle can switch routes as well. In some cases, the autonomous car can transfer the control to the driver in order to prepare for the slowdown and guide the vehicle in the construction zone.

At the same time, drivers of conventional vehicles can also receive the warning. The described system would work similarly to Waze, so they'd be provided with options to change routes. The warning can include a slowdown estimate and the impact it would have on the arrival time.

How HERE's system would work
Photo: USPTO
Needless to say, HERE can eventually improve the system using multiple information sources, such as advisories published by authorities themselves. A crowdsourcing component can help as well, but in the long term, the company's goal is a little bit different.

HERE is one of the biggest names investing in mapping platforms for self-driving vehicles, and dealing with construction zones is a critical part of the strategy. Roadworks can change the lane configuration and produce new directions that wouldn’t be included in the onboard navigation. As such, a self-driving car could feel lost, eventually failing to navigate through the area.

The company wants to prevent this from happening either by transferring the vehicle control to the driver or by using data collected by sensors to quickly map the road. This way, the next self-driving vehicles going on the same route would know precisely which way they need to go.

The system can allow for real-time map updates, though its long-time accuracy is something that would have to be fine-tuned significantly before the debut on production vehicles. Of course, it's way too early to discuss such a thing, as HERE's technology is currently in the patent stage. This is a mandatory step before new innovative systems get the go-ahead for mass production, but on the other hand, it isn't by any means a guarantee that the technology will receive the green light. Such a thing takes time, so you'd better not hold your breath for the roadworks detection model to debut in a HERE-powered vehicle on the road.
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 Download: Identifying work zones within a map (PDF)

About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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