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“NDS.Live has brought a fundamental change in content and collaboration.”

20. February 2024

The Navigation Data Standard (NDS) offers numerous benefits for in-vehicle navigation, ADAS and e-horizon safety systems. We support mobile companion apps, connected car cloud solutions, and autonomous driving, evolving with market needs as NDS is for the automotive industry, by the automotive industry. The NDS specification covers data model, storage format, interfaces, and protocols.To achieve these ambitious goals, however, visionary minds are needed to steer the fortunes of the NDS Association. Martin Schleicher was chairman of the NDS Association for many years. He only recently handed over this position to Dr. Martin Pfeifle. We take this handover as an opportunity to talk to Martin Schleicher about the changes of the past few years and what the NDS Association was able to achieve during his time as chairman.

The former NDS chairman Martin Schleicher has played a decisive role in guiding the fortunes of the NDS Association in recent years.

Mr. Schleicher, you have been NDS chairman for several years. Can you please briefly explain the aims of the NDS Association?

The primary aim of the NDS Association is to develop and maintain the worldwide standard for map data in automotive eco-systems. A standardized map will provide location references enabling the fusion of map and sensor data. We, the NDS Association members, believe that a common map standard is essential for creating a network effect. Because the automotive industry needs to work together on sharing data. Furthermore, the NDS Association fosters innovation for map technologies by providing a framework that encourages collaboration and the exchange of ideas among industry players.

What role do maps play in an automotive world characterized by many changes?

We believe that maps should serve as a common location reference, the common canvas on which vehicle and infrastructure sensor data combine to paint a realistic picture of the world. The map helps the car understand the world around it. And the map also includes the data that vehicle and infrastructure sensors cannot provide.

Has NDS changed in recent years and have the tasks of the association evolved since its foundation?

The NDS has evolved from a map format for navigation systems and location-based services to now also supporting high-definition maps for ADAS and automated driving. That is being reflected in the membership structure where we gained several new members, mainly from Asia, as well as suppliers from the ADAS/AD area. Furthermore, we have established a Product Management role to better collect and structure customer and market requirements.

Around four years ago, NDS also introduced NDS.Live. Has this brought about any changes?

The introduction of NDS.Live, our new format has been a major effort where we had many discussions about new technical concepts, architecture, as well legal aspects. We changed from a specification for a in-vehicle map database to defining interfaces for map services that can be distributed and come from the vehicle or the cloud. We also thought about the consequences if we’d open up NDS.Live for non-members. We are pleased that the launch of NDS.Live went really well.

Can you briefly say what has NDS been able to achieve in recent years?

The introduction and release of NDS.Live as a map service is a major milestone I really want to highlight. We also introduced a Product Management role for NDS and a Product Definition Group taking care and defining the roadmap for NDS. Furthermore, we recognized that we need to make the results and achievements of NDS more visible. We established an annual NDS Public Conference where you can learn about results and progress of NDS including customer case studies. Last but not least we also did several webcasts and videos explaining details on NDS, as well as publishing regular articles about NDS on LinkedIn and our website.

Are you satisfied with the progress the association has made?

Yes, we are happy with our development. Organizations such as NDS need to evolve along changes of the market and technology innovation. Introducing NDS.Live, implementing our Product Management and being more visible certainly helps us to be more active and more effective. When I started, this was already clear and there was a common understanding within the NDS Steering Committee. So we could jointly make it happen.

What do you see as your greatest personal success?

NDS.Live was a fundamental change in technology and collaboration. Transforming NDS from a map specification to a map service and making NDS.Live available for non-members meant to change some cornerstones of the association including legal stuff such as articles of the associations and bylaws. This was a major effort which is not that visible from the outside. You might imagine how much effort it is clarifying fundamental legal and IP questions.

What do you see as the most important trends in the field of navigation?

Maps are relevant not only for navigation and location-based services. Navigation and ADAS are more and more converging. Vehicle functions can benefit from using map information, such as adaptive lighting systems adjusting to the road geometry. This development is also reflected in NDS’ progress to support HD maps as well as use the map information for various in-vehicle functions.

What are the biggest challenges for the future?

We all know that the introduction of new technologies can take some time until they are ready to be used in vehicle production programs. I hope we can the introduction of NDS.Live in the industry. We as the NDS Association should also look into generative AI and investigate how we can benefit from this new technology.

What do you wish for the future of the organization?

I hope and wish that we keep the open and constructive spirit of collaboration which has distinguished us in recent years. We have a diverse membership structure with car manufacturers, suppliers, map providers, software companies from across the globe. Although there are sometimes very different views, we find common solutions and then execute them. I wish the organization this proactive and collaborative “can-do” mentality for the years to come.

Thank you very much for this interview!

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