Driverless demands will cull navigation providers, says TomTom

Not only will the mass adoption of driverless technology become a game-changer for navigation providers, it will bring with it a rush of consolidation in the industry.

That’s because fewer, more powerful, providers are essential to cope with the broadening scope of mapping and navigation, says Jan Maarten de Vries, vice-president product management TomTom.

Speaking exclusively to TU-Automotive, de Vries said the future for navigation providers will see two distinct eras of development.

He explained: “If I look at the navigation space I look at two different time-axis. One is short to mid-term where we are talking about navigation brought into infotainment through connectivity where cars are not yet fully autonomous but are adding automated driver functions gradually.

“The next era, let’s say five to 10 years from now, autonomous starts to get bigger and then navigation as a function must completely change. That said, I don’t think it will evolve into a default standard, however, even for the short to mid-term I feel there is more consolidation necessary for the industry overall to be competitive.

“The reason I say this is because at the moment we have something like 30 suppliers that provide navigation functions to the automotive industry for embedded systems. This includes us, naturally, other suppliers and some Tier 1s that are doing their own stuff. Over time, I do not think this situation is sustainable in a context where you see navigation becomes more standardised in the sense that every system needs it where the function to bring people from A-to-B is not new.

“So you could expect that the customers, the carmakers, are in need of consolidation where the market brings it back to a few specialists who can provide state-of-the-art navigation off the shelf that they can plug-and-play in their products – that’s the first thing.”


Bigger, more powerful players in the navigation space will be required to meet the increased demands for sophisticated solutions that come from driverless cars, de Vries said.

“As we move towards autonomous driving, then I think the ones that will survive are the ones that are capable to rethink navigation as a function for the driverless car. This includes, for instance, that navigation is used as a ‘black box’ within the autonomous driving system to provide a route and conduct route calculations. This bit is traditional but how do you visualise the output of navigation to the end-user to create trust in the system? That’s because they still need to know what the vehicle is doing but also the role of the map. How does the map help in terms of how does it work as an additional factor in the system to localise the vehicle but also to help in planning the next step?

“The ones who can provide that functionality and speciality to the car industry will likely survive that shift from traditional infotainment to autonomous driving.

“Yet before that, I see a shake-out probably that will happen in the infotainment sector for reasons of overall costs to the industry, overall effectiveness and, then when we make the change towards autonomous driving, the function needs to change so people who were stuck in the old way of doing things will stay behind and not survive.”


As a step towards meeting the challenges in a more complex digital world NVIDIA and TomTom announced in September 2016 that they are partnering to develop artificial intelligence (AI) to create a cloud-to-car mapping system for self-driving cars.

The work combines TomTom’s HD map coverage, which already spans more than 200,000 km of highways and freeways, with the NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 computing platform. Together, the solution hopes to accelerate support for real-time in-vehicle localisation and mapping.

de Vries said: “We have thought about what is our place in the market and what components we provide to the overall system and I’m thinking this is a complex puzzle where many components need to work together and nobody can do it my themselves alone. Via is one example, because what they do is they have a very clever strategy of providing high computing power through GPUs and the software that comes on top of that both in the Cloud and in the embedded systems. This allows the input from the map content to run almost in real-time on a high computer platform while we need to get the updates from the Cloud that are based on sensor data. This is where NVIDIA technology and our technology can work together.

“There are more partnerships that we have to implement in the future because nobody can do it by themselves.”

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