Smart Maps

When you scroll through your in-car navigation or your smartphone’s mapping apps, the images and information you are viewing is rarely current. Satellite and street views can go for months or years between updates. In addition, events like weather or construction are not usually included.

Enter the ‘Smart Map’.

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In theory, these maps will assist the safe navigation of self-driving cars with information about what is down the road. They will communicate with other vehicles, stoplights and anything else encountered.

Although mainstream driverless cars are likely a decade away, smart maps will debut in the next year or two.

The smart map will use an internet connection to monitor stoplights, speed limits and other data from municipal street systems. This high-definition mapping system is designed to read and transmit road conditions back to data servers, which will then be sent out to eHorizon-equipped vehicles with little conceivable delay. Sure, you could survey weather forecasts, traffic reports, and DOT dispatches to get that information, but this tech will put it all in one place.

That means slippery roads, construction detours, accidents, and other traffic catalysts could be programmed directly into vehicle electronics. The technology will reportedly have the ability to accurately display roads within 20 centimeters.

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The eHorizon won’t send data, at least not at first. Eventually, this program will be able to communicate with other vehicles, as automakers introduce vehicle-to-vehicle data links.

Initially, the map’s main selling point will be fuel economy. The system will also analyze your driving patterns to predict what you’re likely to do next and calculate the most efficient speed.

In 2012, Scania AB began using an earlier version of the technology in their heavy trucks. The trucks’ onboard computers could then indicate location and height of every hill and grade, to determine the best gear selection. The truckers reduced annual fuel consumption by 3 percent.

Passenger vehicles are expected to gain similar fuel savings.

If a vehicle has a stop-start system, eHorizon can improve the fuel economy by an additional 3 to 4 percent. The map calculates the right speed for the driver to hit the green lights and then the most efficient braking strategy for red lights or stop signs.

A 15 minute demonstration could be seen at the recent Consumer Electronic’s Show where a Volkswagen Golf was equipped with eHorizon.

When the computer calculated that a slower speed would be more efficient, the accelerator pedal vibrated under foot. Then as it coasted toward a red light, the console screen told the driver when to apply the brakes.

While stopped at one intersection, the Golf restarted its engine an instant before the light turned green. It didn’t have to wait for the driver to lift his food off the brake, unlike a conventional hybrid start-stop system.

In its infancy, the system will likely be best suited for non-peak traffic. Sure it will be a bit helpful with fuel economy as well, and road trips would be great with traffic or weather updates, but the convenience of having all of the info in one place will undoubtably be very nice.

A few years from now, when the vehicle-to-vehicle communication is integrated and this becomes an everyday piece of tech, you will wonder how you ever lived without it.