HD Maps for the Masses

comma ai
comma ai
Aug 17, 2018 · 3 min read

The future of navigation will be centralized around HD maps. While plenty of companies exist to provide this type of data, all are limited by paywalls and strict Terms-of-Service. It is time for this paradigm to change. Comma.ai is releasing US interstate HD maps from our 5,000,000+ miles of data.

Image for post
Image for post
A slice of highway data around the United States

History

Most hackers around the world are familiar with the difference between “free” as in “free beer” and as in “free speech”. Google Maps are free as in beer, not as in speech.

This ultimately led to the creation of projects such as OpenStreetMaps and corporate backers like Mapbox who help to maintain map integrity. As of 2018, the number of companies using open-source maps has grown as quality increases and prices for access to commercial data rise.

HD Maps

But what even are HD Maps? Are they fundamentally different or is it just another buzzword thrown around in marketing departments? The data in OSM or Google Maps was primarily optimized for assisting humans, resulting in an over simplified and abstract representation of the world. Self-driving cars have generated an entirely new set of requirements. HD maps used for self-driving need to be a complete centimeter-accurate depiction of the real world, containing all things relevant to road navigation such as lanes, curvature and road boundaries.

Image for post
Image for post
High Precision Lanes from I-280

Comma.ai uses fleet data from EON and Grey Panda to build an accurate representation of highways throughout the United States. Therefore, as our fleet grows, the likelihood of our maps representing the real world increases. The end result is a map that is not only open and decimeter accurate, but also up-to-date. As of today, 75,000+ miles of roadways are updated per-week.

Comma Maps

Our new map viewer, called “comma maps,” visualizes recorded paths driven, lane markings, and world features.

Image for post
Image for post
World Features from the Bay Bridge

In addition to a viewer, we also created infrastructure to tile our data. These tools are also being open-sourced, feel free to check out our project — entium — if you are interested in our tiling process. (Shout-out to Cesium and entwine for providing awesome open-source tools that helped make “comma maps” possible)

When can I get access?

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store