3D LOCATION DATA FOR FUEL EFFICIENCY AND SAFETY

By Kevin Thomas
VP Marketing
Intermap Technologies
Denver, Colorado
www.Intermap.com
www.AccTerra.com


arrows The automotive industry is under pressure on multiple fronts, both in the U.S. and Europe. Fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction top the list of priorities, as consumers, politicians, and regulators drive change within the industry. The U.S. government-established Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations demand better fuel performance from new passenger vehicles and light trucks. This is particularly significant in light of the high fuel prices in late 2008 and the general consensus that $4 per gallon gas will return. The European Union is focused on CO2 reduction programs, which tend to correlate with increased fuel performance. In both cases, reliable location-based geospatial data can help the industry move toward meeting the demands of government agencies and consumers alike.

Other location-based opportunities have increased through the proliferation of GPS technology in handheld devices, automobiles, and commercial vehicles. GPS devices allow for precise horizontal and vertical positioning virtually anywhere on the planet. This information is typically represented in maps enabling point-to-point measurement and navigation. The number of related navigation and geographical positioning applications continues to increase as the price of GPS-enabled devices continues to decline.

The combining of GPS technology with routable maps has led to the creation of in-car and personal navigation systems that have collectively become a multi-billion dollar market. Internet companies such as Google and Microsoft offer location-specific advertising and search for their customers, creating a multi-billion dollar market in the form of Location Based Services (LBS) advertising revenue. The underlying data enabling the growth of these LBS markets is currently comprised of two-dimensional digital road maps, addresses, points of interest, and road characteristics (one-way streets, intersections, turn restrictions, etc.) that provide optimum routing to the user.

❯ Knowing the Road Ahead 

However, new applications are emerging in the LBS industry due to the availability of highly accurate 3D geospatial data such as elevation, slope, centerline geometries, and 3D images. This mapping content is the catalyst for emerging applications that allow both people and machines to be location aware. For example, when an automobile becomes location aware and can literally “know the road ahead,” its efficiency and utility can be significantly enhanced. With the use of 3D map data, additional systems and functionality can be integrated directly into automobiles to enhance fuel efficiency and safety, or into handheld devices to enhance user utility and maximize an outdoor experience.

Intermap’s NEXTMap mapping program is creating 3D road geometries, or vectors, for every inch of paved road in Western Europe and the U.S. The end product will be a line that is horizontally accurate for every paved road on the earth’s surface and contains vertical information regarding every aspect of each road. This enables product managers and engineers in the automotive industry to develop applications that showcase reliable knowledge of the road ahead.

Figure 1. Recent studies have demonstrated that fuel efficiency in the trucking industry can be significantly improved through the use of Intermap’s 3D road geometries. The vectors can provide a commercial truck with knowledge of upcoming grades, and the slope and length of those grades. With that information, the truck can intelligently shift its gears and use its transmission to accommodate for uphill climbs and downhill slopes. Likewise, the vectors can be likened to an extended sensor that provides precise knowledge of the road ahead. One application enabled by Intermap’s vectors – predictive adaptive lighting – anticipates road curves and slopes to automatically adjust headlights up or down and into curves, dramatically improving visibility without impairing vision for oncoming traffic.
Figure 1. Recent studies have demonstrated that fuel efficiency in the trucking industry can be significantly improved through the use of Intermap’s 3D road geometries. The vectors can provide a commercial truck with knowledge of upcoming grades, and the slope and length of those grades. With that information, the truck can intelligently shift its gears and use its transmission to accommodate for uphill climbs and downhill slopes. Likewise, the vectors can be likened to an extended sensor that provides precise knowledge of the road ahead. One application enabled by Intermap’s vectors – predictive adaptive lighting – anticipates road curves and slopes to automatically adjust headlights up or down and into curves, dramatically improving visibility without impairing vision for oncoming traffic.

Research in the Unites States and Europe has shown that the inclusion of 3D road vectors in heavy trucks can be used to manage the vehicles’ power trains to improve fuel efficiencies. In fact, the company’s NEXTMap data was used in a study by Auburn University to investigate ways the commercial trucking industry could save fuel using accurate 3D road data. The ultimate goal of the study is to design a predictive cruise controller and automatic gear shifting algorithm to calculate optimal vehicle speed and gear selection that improve fuel economy and operating costs (see Figure 1.) Early results show that the United States trucking industry could potentially reduce diesel fuel consumption by 1 billion gallons annually.

Short commercial vehicle development cycles, combined with existing OEM (original equipment manufacturer) enthusiasm, present an ideal entry point to establish confidence in 3D road vectors and to drive additional applications in the industry. The first targets are new vehicles (Class 8 long-haul trucks) for applications as embedded solutions. Aftermarket opportunities can also be developed by product teams to address the need for today’s current fleet of trucks, knowing that the technology is both reliable and available.

For advanced driver assistance systems in passenger vehicles, 3D road vectors can enable applications such as adaptive front lighting systems, curve warning systems, and predictive pass advisory systems. A driver’s situational awareness can also be enhanced through the use of 3D photorealistic displays in navigation systems. Additionally, once the 3D road data is incorporated into a vehicle’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) protocol, numerous other systems can then be enhanced or improved, including brake management optimization, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation braking, and forward-sensing collision warning.

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are another sector showing great product development with the use of geospatial data. Passenger car energy management optimization is a broad segment that is rapidly evolving due to deteriorating global economic conditions, fuel price volatility, and government mandates (i.e. CO2 emission limits in Europe and fuel economy CAFE standards in the United States). HEV manufacturers know that utilizing reliable map information to predict the upcoming road can help to optimize energy management system algorithms, resulting in improved fuel economy and a reduction in battery size.


Getting Started Issues

Data is generally used by individuals who provide GIS or geospatial support within an organization when building or developing a solution. The data comes in standard GIS formats (.bil, Erdas Imagine, ASCII XYZ, ESRI ARC II, or GeoTiff format) and is easily incorporated into GIS software applications. Pricing varies depending on the area of interest, ranging from $2.00 to $30.00 per square kilometer.


Intermap’s coverage for all road function classes is essential to this optimization and is seen as a key competitive advantage. During 2008, Intermap worked with both Clemson University and a tier-one automotive supplier to analyze the impact of map data by constructing a detailed simulation model of HEVs with parallel configurations and modifying several existing energy management strategies to include future terrain information. Preliminary findings were positive and justified further vehicle-level testing during 2009.

❯ Enabling LBS 

The geodata ‘stack’ begins with a solid foundation, which is then layered with the proper geospatial datasets necessary to enable a specific business solution. Intermap Technologies recognized the need within various markets for a uniform and accurate 3D model of the earth’s surface. Specifically, the company saw that Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth, and others were providing millions of consumers with photos of their backyards from space, and that road networks were being digitized and used for point-to-point directions – all in 2D.

While some applications have recently begun presenting terrain visualization in 3D, Intermap realized that visualization is only one aspect of the 3D revolution. For example:

  • What happens when you’re making major, mission-critical decisions with virtual models?
  • Is the foundation of your model layered with accurate and current data?
  • Does the model with which you’re working contain the most uniform data available across the entire
  • area with which you’re working?

The Automotive Business Case

In 2007, with a grant from Intermap, Auburn University studied how 3D terrain models could be used to design a predictive cruise-controller and automatic gear-shifting to improve fuel economy for commercial trucks by 3-5 percent. By providing information about road grades ahead, algorithms could be used to calculate optimal vehicle speeds and gear selection. If every commercial vehicle in the U.S. were equipped with this technology, we’d see an annual savings of 1 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year.


Hybrid Electric Vehicles Research

Clemson University is studying the impact of the use of 3D data on energy management control strategies for hybrid electric vehicles. Preliminary results demonstrate a significant potential savings in U.S. fuel consumption. The project is focused on developing a control scheme for hybrid-powered passenger vehicles that capitalize on Intermap’s NEXTMap 3D road data to more efficiently manage the use of the gas engine and the electric drive.


FIGURE 2. A color-shaded relief digital terrain model (DTM) of the Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma was collected as part of Intermap’s NEXTMap USA program. Elevation data in 3D has been collected for every square mile of the contiguous U.S. and Western Europe in the company’s NEXTMap program.
FIGURE 2. A color-shaded relief digital terrain model (DTM) of the Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma was collected as part of Intermap’s NEXTMap USA program. Elevation data in 3D has been collected for every square mile of the contiguous U.S. and Western Europe in the company’s NEXTMap program.

If you or your organization hope to ride the leading edge of developing applications that can have a major impact on your industry, the answer should be a resounding “yes.” Reliable geospatial datasets are the great enablers in the LBS industry. They enable product managers to create breakthrough products. They enable business leaders to grow and expand new markets, to reduce costs and increase revenues, and they enable the development of new business models that were once viewed as impossible. 

Having recognized the industry’s need for uniformly accurate 3D elevation models and images, Intermap proactively remapped Western Europe and the contiguous U.S. via its proprietary airborne Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (IFSAR) digital mapping technology, collecting high-resolution geospatial data across every square mile of more than 20 countries. By doing so, the company created a solid and affordable geospatial foundation for the next generation of LBS applications, including digital terrain and surface models (Figure 2 ), orthorectified radar images, contours, optimized TINs (triangulated irregular networks, an irregular surface area such as land or sea floor), and 3D road vectors covering millions of road miles.

❯ Geospatially Fit-for-Purpose 

Thomas_figure3
FIGURE 3. Based on the NEXTMap DTM, this German Flood Model shows flood risk zones along the Saale River, east of Rudolstadt, Thuringia, Germany. Each flood risk boundary delineates areas with the same annual probability of being flooded. The depicted areas are inundated only at extreme water levels. Flood risk is only one natural peril used in Intermap’s risk management application, providing solutions to our insurance market customers.

Several competing technologies, such as the USGS (United States Geological Survey) DEMs (digital elevation models), are used to generate map products at various scales, details, and accuracies. However, the age and accuracy of the USGS-supplied dataset need to be taken into consideration. The stated vertical accuracy for the 30-meter USGS DEMs is 20 or 45 feet, depending on the file. Many areas of the country have been checked and the correlation with map elevations is often within 10 to 20 feet. However, in some cases, (especially in mountainous areas with extreme elevation variances) the differences can be as much as 150 feet. This vertical accuracy means that on any single point on the earth’s surface, the dataset can be compared against reality to measure the accuracy. Thus in a USGS dataset, any point can be + or – 20 feet in accuracy in elevation). Applications requiring a higher degree of accuracy over a wide area are ideal candidates for IFSAR-generated geospatial datasets, which have a vertical accuracy of three feet or better.

The uses for Intermap’s geospatial datasets are limitless. Elevation data plays a significant role in geographic information systems (GIS), insurance risk modeling (Figure 3) and watershed analysis, and 3D map data for recreational GPS devices and cross-over PNDs (personal navigation devices) (Figure 4). Additional uses include satellite and aerial image rectification, military applications, line-of-sight analysis, flight simulation, precision farming and forestry, surface analysis, Internet visualization and mapping, vehicle safety/ADAS, and intelligent transportation systems that allow greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions

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Figure 4. AccuTerra GPS mapping products safely take recreational enthusiasts throughout the United States to places they’ve never been. AccuTerra’s DTMs, with overlaid route-tracking information and points of interest (such as campgrounds, service facilities, and landmarks), offer the most comprehensive database for today’s handheld GPS devices.

❯ Enabling the Future

The key to the future of location based services will be one of many different types of geospatial datasets, all reflecting varying degrees of accuracy and consistency and all capable of enabling a host of innovative products, services, and applications.

The future is no longer about the geospatial data – it’s about what the data enables. Under a customer- and market-driven structure, customers will not buy geospatial data; rather, they’ll choose products that are enabled through embedded geospatial intelligence to do the required job. So, what other applications and products can be built or business issues solved, now that product managers and executives know that this enabling technology is available? Virtually any application that requires accurate, affordable elevation models and orthorectified images is possible. The key is knowledge of the enabling geospatial datasets and of solutions made possible through understanding this growing industry. In essence, yesterday’s pipe dream is today’s business model and tomorrow’s revenue generator.