Mapping the World, One Centimeter At a Time


From stone tablets to atlases, cartographic innovations have long been an underappreciated staple of geopolitics and everyday life. In addition to wayfinding, the use of maps laid the foundation for World War II. Propaganda maps were used to influence public opinion and mobilize troops. Instagrammers and TikTok-ers use them to visit the hottest restaurants. In their latest incarnation, high-precision maps stand to change the future of navigation, logistics and spatial data collection.

At the forefront is a little-known Japanese startup — Dynamic Map Platform Company, or DMP. The firm, backed by government-backed funds, has a multibillion-dollar mandate to (1) support next-generation industries, and counts major domestic conglomerates such as Toyota Motor Corporation among its shareholders;

DMP is creating a set of high-definition and three-dimensional maps that are far more accurate than the standard maps we know: those on iPhones, applications like Waze and in-car navigation systems that use GPS. Its data can also be used for precise drone flights.

Data collection is key. Intel Corp. Owned by Mobileye, the likes rely on crowdsourced information from participating manufacturers’ cars (they collect it automatically and anonymously). The Japanese firm’s strategy allows for ownership and high precision. The data is very accurate—distances and locations to within centimeters. Other mapping systems, rooted in the World Geodetic System, are approximate and rely heavily on sensors. It’s very annoying when Google Maps gets thrown in dense areas, or when it sends you in all sorts of directions and doesn’t recognize U-turns.

Lire Aussi :  Will Istanbul's mayor go to jail?

In addition, sourcing data from others — such as car manufacturers — risks running into privacy and storage issues. Or, those details become unavailable from third parties. Self-generated information is more secure.

Creating these maps is a large, technical effort. Precise locations are determined using the Global Navigation Satellite System, or GNSS. Then, vehicles equipped with sensors and cameras collect point cloud data — or a group of points, where each has a set of Cartesian coordinates (think X-axis and Y-axis). A mapping system brings them all together and integrates the information. It picks up everything, including roads, structures, curbs, lane linkages and painted curbs, even before drivers get there.

This may sound like a lot of deep technology and a lot of unnecessary information, but mapping and data collection are increasingly at the center of navigation and security technology. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, one of the biggest tech events on the calendar, software-based vehicles and autonomous driving systems were all the rage. They have accelerated auto-tech and intelligent vehicles. These maps are integrated into drones, windshields and cockpits, seamlessly guiding passengers to their destinations. In China, the rapidly expanding market for such cars is expected to reach 960 billion yuan ($141 billion) by 2025. In the US, a team at the University of Texas Radionavigation Lab is tapping signals from Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink satellite. A navigation technology free from GPS, Russia, China and Europe’s geopolitics.

Lire Aussi :  Toadzilla, monster toad found in Australia, could be world's largest

High-definition and accurate maps will eventually allow people to visually immerse themselves in distant places. Increasingly, analysts and academics are using satellite imagery and other geolocation data to see thousands of miles away. Hedge funds also use it to track the activities of factories and warehouses. In recent months, open-source intelligence has helped track troop movements in Ukraine. Three-dimensional mapping systems such as DMP’s will eventually allow logistics firms to navigate through warehouses, using 3D building and street maps. It will also allow electric vehicles to be more efficient with accurate information about gradients, lanes and chargers. Cartography today is more powerful than it was decades ago.

So far, DMP has data on 30,000 km (18,641 mi) of highways and motorways in Japan, about 640,000 km in the US, and over 300,000 km in Europe. In 2018, he founded Ushr Inc. acquired GM Ventures and EnerTech Capital as investors at the time. Together, the two firms backed $100 million with JOIN, one of the Japanese government’s funds to expand high-definition coverage in North America. Meanwhile, last year, DMP and JOIN invested about $90 million to expand outside of North America and Japan. It has already signed up automakers and is expected to become an important tool for logistics and infrastructure providers. General Motors Co.’s Cadillac models, including the CT6, XT6, and Hummer, known for their semi-autonomous systems, have these maps installed.

Lire Aussi :  List of world’s most expensive cities altered by war in Ukraine

As geopolitical tensions boil over, mobility innovations increase and people travel more, maps are all that matters. Importantly, the accuracy of the data – and increasingly, its ownership – will be critical and will drive further cartographic progress.

More from Bloomberg Opinion:

• US May Defend Taiwan From China – At Big Cost: Tobin Harshaw

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

• Tesla may be out of the race: 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.

The late Trivedi is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. She covers industries including policies and firms in the machinery, automobile, electric vehicle and battery sectors in Asia Pacific. Previously, she was a columnist for the Wall Street Journal’s Hurd on the Street and a finance and markets reporter for the paper. Before that, she was an investment banker in New York and London.

More stories like this are available at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button