Crowdsourced maps should help driverless cars navigate our cities more safely

ur current street maps aren’t much good for helping driverless cars get around. Although we’ve mapped most roads, they get updated only every couple of years. And these maps don’t log any roadside infrastructure such as road signs, driveways, and lane markings. Without this extra layer of information, it will be much harder to get autonomous cars to navigate our cities safely. Robotic deliveries, too, will eventually require precise details of road surfaces, sidewalks, and obstacles.

A Swedish startup called Mapillary thinks it has the answer. It’s an open platform that crowdsources images of streets taken by people on their smartphones: a sort of Wikipedia of mapping. It says it is now one of the biggest publicly available databases of street-level imagery in the world.