Virtually every major automobile manufacturer currently offering a navigation system in North America and Europe uses Navteq maps in one or more of their models. Since 2008, Navteq who has been an operating unit of Nokia, showed their latest digital-mapping system and 3D maps during CES 2010.

With some 3D data now in hand, Navteq has started selling what it calls Enhanced 3D City Models shown in their promotional video. Cliff Fox, executive vice president of Navteq Maps said "customers will benefit though our ability to bring an increasing range of advanced data into our maps at a lower cost, particularly that which will support a true 3D map." The new 3D maps can be used in navigation devices to give people in cars, or on foot with smartphones, a better graphical idea of their surroundings, the company said.

Navteq True system is roof mounted
Navteq True system is roof mounted

The central unit in the True-system is a rotating LIDAR [Light Detection And Ranging] system that uses lasers to construct 3D maps of the world. Navteq’s LIDAR system uses a proprietary architecture that can capture over 1.5 million 3D data points every second, which is a significant advancement over other LIDAR systems. The rotating lasers can collect over a longer range, up to approximately 120 meters [nearly 400 feet], at highway speeds, allowing Navteq to collect highway signs while still being able to capture the detail on a small mile marker.

Navteq Antenna uses 64 lasers to gather 3D data
Navteq Antenna uses 64 lasers to gather 3D data

Along with LIDAR in the roof-mounted unit, panoramic and hi-resolution multi-view cameras provide an immersive picture of a location to support the production of street level imagery. The simultaneous addition of multi-view cameras captures additional details, such as what is printed on a menu outside a restaurant, which can be collected on the same drive by at highway speeds. 

Nokia's latest Satellite phone and Navteq 3D mapping There is also a GPS [Global Positioning System] and IMU [Inertial Measurement Units] systems. The IMU is a key element to help ensure collection of hard-to-capture attributes such as curve and slope, which require a greater level of positioning accuracy.

As shown in the Nokia 2008 video of earlier mapping equipment, there are two people in the car. One works on getting the data, the other concentrates on driving. There?s a whole raft of information to collect and monitor, and the teams get to record and code key attributes such as lane information, road dividers and speed bumps.

The cameras? output can be monitored on a display inside the car while the control system and hard drive array are in the trunk for storing all those images and data points for 3D mapping.

Navteq has a world presence in the mapping business as well, just like Google is famous for its Street View cars that go around and cause privacy issues for the paranoid among us. Then again, Navteq does not collect any personal data.

Navteq's 3D Cities is featured in Argentina as well - Picture Credit: Fernando Cassia
Navteq’s 3D Cities is truly global, as we see on this Navteq’s car from Argentina – Picture Credit: Fernando Cassia

Fernando Cassia, in Buenos Aires, sent us this photo of their 2009 Expo Comm exhibit. Navteq’s True-system with their latest specially-outfitted cars are beginning the roll out of this new technology in their US fleet of field collection vehicles. Europe will follow soon, and Asia is coming in late 2010, with South America to follow in 2011.