Mapping the World, One Centimeter At a Time


From stone tablets to atlases, cartographic innovations have long been overlooked in geopolitics and everyday life. In addition to wayfinding, the use of maps was the foundation of World War II. Propaganda maps were used to attract public attention and motivate the military. Instagrammers and TikTok-ers use them to get to the hottest restaurants. In its latest incarnation, high-resolution maps are changing the future of navigation, software, and data collection.

At the forefront is a little-known Japanese startup – Dynamic Map Platform Co., or DMP. The company, backed by government-backed financing, (1) has billions of dollars in mandates to support next-generation industries, and includes major domestic conglomerates such as Toyota Motor Corp. to be among its officials.

DMP creates and builds a series of high-definition, three-dimensional maps that are far more accurate than what we usually know: Those on iPhones, apps like Waze and in-car navigation systems that use GPS. Its data can also be used for accurate drone flights.

Data collection is key. The likes of Intel Corp.’s Mobileye. depends on the information obtained from the vehicles of the participating manufacturers (they collect it automatically and anonymously). The Japanese company’s strategy allows for high-quality ownership and precision. The data is correct — distance and position in inches. Other mapping systems, deployed in the Global Geodetic System, tend to be approximate and rely heavily on sensors. It’s very annoying when Google Maps gets thrown in a congested area, or when it sends you in every direction and doesn’t recognize U-turns.

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In addition, taking data from others – such as car manufacturers – can create privacy and storage issues. Or, the details from the third party become unavailable. Self-generated information tends to be more reliable.

Creating these maps is a huge and technological effort. It uses the global navigation satellite system, or GNSS, to determine the exact location. Then, a vehicle with sensors and cameras collects and produces point-cloud data – or groups of points, which contain Cartesian coordinates (think X-axis and Y-axis). A mapping system brings it all together and integrates the information. It captures everything, including painted street signs, structures, sidewalks, intersections, and curbs, even if it hasn’t been anywhere yet. the driver.

It may seem like deep technology and unnecessary information, but mapping and data collection are becoming central to navigation and safety technology. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, one of the biggest tech events on the calendar, software-based cars and autonomous driving systems. They have led the boom in auto-tech and intelligent cars. These maps are integrated into drones, mirrors and cockpits, taking passengers to their destinations. In China, the market for such vehicles is expected to grow to 960 billion yuan ($141 billion) by 2025. In the United States, a team at the University of Texas’s Radionavigation Lab is researching signals from satellites Starlink of Elon Musk’s SpaceX to create. geopolitical navigation technology of GPS, Russia, China and Europe.

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A well-defined and clear map allows people to visually immerse themselves in distant places. Increasingly, observers and scientists are using satellite images and other geo-location data to see what is happening thousands of miles away. Hedge funds use it, too, to monitor activity in factories and warehouses. In recent months, open intelligence has helped monitor military activity in Ukraine. Three-dimensional mapping systems like DMP’s will allow software companies to deliver a window as communities age, using 3D building and street maps, and navigating through the warehouse. It also enables electric vehicles to be more efficient with clear information about gradients, routes and chargers. Today’s maps are more powerful than they were decades ago.

So far, DMP has data for 30,000 kilometers (18,641 miles) of highways and highways in Japan, about 640,000 kilometers in the United States and more than 300,000 kilometers in Europe. In 2018, it acquired Ushr Inc., which counted GM Ventures and EnerTech Capital as investors at the time. Together, the two companies have supported 100 million dollars in the expansion of high-quality coverage in North America, with one of the funds of the Japanese government, JOIN. Meanwhile, last year, DMP and JOIN invested around $90 million to expand into North America and Japan. It has already signed up automakers and hopes to become a key tool for software and infrastructure providers. General Motors Co.’s Cadillac models, including the CT6, XT6, and Hummer, known for their semi-autonomous systems, have installed these maps.

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As geopolitical tensions cool, mobility innovations increase and people travel more, maps are no longer needed. Most importantly, the accuracy of the data – and increasingly, its availability – is important and will support map progress.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• US Can Protect Taiwan From China — At Big Cost: Tobin Harshaw

• Afraid of driverless cars? China has the answer: Anjani Trivedi

• Tesla may put itself out of the running: Gary Smith

(1) Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development, or JOIN, and Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, or INCJ

This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Anjani Trivedi is a Bloomberg Opinion reporter. He covers industry including politics and business in the machinery, automotive, electric vehicle and battery sectors across Asia Pacific. Before that, he was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal’s Heard on the Street and a financial and markets reporter for the paper. Before that, he was an investment banker in New York and London

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