China Blocks Foreign Companies from Mapping Its Roads for Self-Driving Cars
As one can imagine, self-driving cars need high-quality digital maps to function properly. They not only utilise digital mapping to find their general location, but also in some cases to locate landmarks that aid maneuvering in low-viability situations, or when a GPS link isn't available.
Digital map data has become a major priority for car manufacturers around the world, especially now that we about to enter the age of autonomy, self-driving autonomous electric vehicles.
Many tech companies are collaborating with car manufacturers in the pursuit of digital mapping and autonomy but there is a spanner in the works as the world's largest new-car market, China, is throwing up a major roadblock to these efforts.
If you have ever considered traveling to China, you may have realised that you cannot use Google maps for your travel research as it is banned in China. The Chinese government blocks all foreign companies from mapping its roads in great detail.
These restrictions, though reportedly do not apply to Chinese firms. The restrictions are being instituted in the name of national security as they are concerned about spying.
China has restricted their geographic information being digitally recorded for more than a decade because it believes giving other countries access to that information constitutes a security risk. Geographic surveys can't be performed without permission from the government, and many digital cameras don't record GPS coordinates for geotagging, as they do in other countries.
Foreign companies looking to sell or operate self-driving cars in China will have to partner with local Chinese companies to gain access to all of that precious map data.
At the moment, foreign car manufacturers wanting to build cars in China have to partner with a local automaker. This arrangement has led to concerns over the theft of intellectual property, although many companies have complied in order to gain access to a large enough share of the world's biggest new-car market. Tesla is a notable exception and it appears the company may be moving closer to a deal to manufacture cars in China on their own terms.
- Chinese firms like Baidu and TuSimple are already working on autonomous driving. Their ability to map roads in their home country unrestricted may give them an advantage there.