South Korea's internet giant Naver said Tuesday it will develop a superaccurate map for autonomous driving by the year’s end, as it seeks to gain an upper hand in the futuristic technology.
The company’s research and development subsidiary Naver Labs announced its plans to create a virtual Seoul map with 10 centimeter-level accuracy. It pledged to build a digital layout of streets 2,000 kilometers long by acquiring geographic data via aerial and land devices.
Naver is one of few Korean companies allowed to test self-driving cars. Since gaining the government’s approval in 2017, Naver has deployed one autonomous vehicle. The company said it will deploy an additional car this year.
Through a crowd-sourcing mapping solution called Across, Naver said it will soon acquire level 4 autonomous driving technology, which allows a car to drive itself almost all the time without human input, but with the restriction of not driving in unmapped areas or during severe weather.
Naver Labs’ chief Seok Sang-ok. Naver
“Our self-driving technology level stands at 3.9,” said Peck Jong-yoon, who heads the self-driving business at Naver Labs. “Through deep-learning technology, we can locate traffic lights and detect their signals using cameras with different filters.”
While autonomous driving has galvanized local tech companies, there appears to be a long way to go for seamless operation. For instance, SK Telecom was in the hot seat when its self-driving bus crossed a yellow line during an autonomous driving festival in Seoul on Saturday.
Given that the country’s largest mobile carrier attributed the mishap to a weak GPS signal, Naver said its efforts to create a digitalized map could provide more accurate information particularly in some urban areas where such signals do not penetrate as well.
“When it comes to autonomous driving, overreliance on GPS carries a risk,” said Naver Labs’ chief Seok Sang-ok. “To provide accurate location, it is important to collect various information. That is why a high-definition map is crucial for autonomous driving.”
Naver also said it has agreed to work with Amsterdam-based Here Technologies to build more detailed maps for other services. They include an indoor navigation system for complex buildings, such as shopping malls, to help users easily reach their destination.