Nokia’s spied a gap in the market. With Google Maps unceremoniously dumped off the iPhone, and Apple Maps being an utter turd-pile, Nokia’s got its eye on the mapping prize. It’s just invested in its own 200-strong fleet of ‘True cars’ packed with sensors and cameras to map the streets in even more detail than Google’s Street View cars did, with lasers and everything.
Nokia’s turning the real-world street-level mapping game up a notch, by not only photographing the streets you live in, but by scanning them with a whole range of sensors too. Nokia will record more detail than ever with high-precision cameras; an inertial measurement unit to tell you the incline of the road (so you can avoid hill starts), and a fancy, spinning laser-scanning unit. The Lidar (light detection and ranging) mounted on the back of the car packs 64 lasers that capture 1.3 million data points per second, meaning Nokia can accurately recreate the world around us in true 3D.
The idea is that you get the best of both worlds, combining camera data with laser scanning to create a true representation of the world that can be as detailed or as focused as you like. If your destination happens to be hidden behind buildings, you can make those blocking your view opaque to better see where you’re going. Even better, Nokia’s looking to taking its voice directions and injecting a little local knowledge too. For instance, instead of telling you to turn right in 100 metres, your satnav might be able to say turn right just after the church, which would be a pretty big leap in in-car navigation.
Nokia’s had 45 of the True cars roaming the US, Western Europe and the UK for a year-and-a-half already, and will have 200 of the things burning rubber on streets near you next year. Who knows whether this will be enough to knock Google off the mapping throne, but it’s a start. And if Nokia manages to make its Here Maps as good as Google maps used to be on the iPhone, it’ll make a lot of people who hate Apple maps really happy. [BBC]