Automotive > Autonomous Vehicles Blog

Amazon: Close is Not Enough in Mapping

by Roger Lanctot | 8月 02, 2021

A report in The Information highlights multiple circumstances where Amazon trucks are getting stuck on dead end streets after being misled by navigation maps provided by logistics partner HERE. The problem is highlighted in the side by side images (below) from Margo Drive outside Charlotte, N.C., which is located near to an Amazon distribution center on Reeves Ridge Drive. The HERE map (left, below) shows a connection between Margo Drive and Reeves Ridge. The Googlemaps image (right, below) shows no such link.
here map flub 1

The Information article highlights the misery this map error has unleashed upon the neighbors living on Margo Drive and other similarly afflicted neighborhoods:

Link to The Information article: - "Amazon's Roads to Nowhere"

The reality is that this failure should never have occurred and, in fact, the Amazon-HERE relationship ought to have itself been part of the solution to this cartographic shortfall. The long-standing vulnerability of HERE's map data has been the failure to find a strategic partner capable of enhancing HERE's mapping activities with crowdsourced data. Strangely enough, HERE has multiple partners in the mobility space - most recently adding Lyft - that are perfectly suited to deliver those crowdsourced insights.

Partners such as Amazon and Lyft have their own vehicles driving hundreds of thousands of miles daily that could be reporting their location data to HERE map makers who ought to be able to update maps in a timely manner - identifying road hazards, construction, or other obstacles including dead end streets. Gathering so-called probe data in partnership with Apple is what vaulted HERE competitor TomTom into a leadership position in the traffic market.

It was almost precisely 14 years ago today - actually August 1, 2007 - that the I-35W bridge collapsed outside Minneapolis. It was days before some mapping providers had identified the new road hazard. Some apps suggested the route was preferred because there was no traffic - as happened in New Jersey when an overpass collapsed later in the year.

Looking at the map image showing a non-existent connection between Reeves Ridge Road and Margo Drive makes clear that the error was not the result lof physical road surveys.  This, too, is troubling as it points to the limitations of the road survey approach - clearly it is not the gold standard.  Proper fusion of multiple data sources to achieve ground truth is - which partially explains Toyota's Woven Planet acquisition of Carmera.

In an age of handheld navigation and map-dependent autonomous vehicles, there is something unnerving about an inaccurate map. My only comparable experience is years ago visiting Shanghai where foldable tourist maps were being sold still showing the existence of historic neighborhoods that had long ago been erased and paved over in preparation for an upcoming World Expo.

In a post-pandemic, delivery-dependent economy, people, cars, and definitely Amazon and Lyft drivers depend on maps. One can only hope that this map mishap will lead to reform and a review of strategic partnerships at HERE. There is no doubt that partners such as Lyft and Amazon and a host of other HERE mobility clients will want to see a commitment to dynamic, essential, real-time map updates. Close is not enough in the business of mobility.

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