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NDS helps to overcome international navigation challenges (Part 1)

12. April 2023

There are territories, islands or regions in the world that are claimed by several countries. In addition, there are different languages, spellings, new names, or legal issues that must be considered when creating and updating international maps. As a standardized format for map databases in navigation systems, the Navigation Data Standard provides support. Robert Krumpolt,  product manager at HERE, has been responsible for NDS navigation maps for many years. He explains how NDS can assist with challenges such as disputed borders or update regions. In this two-part blog, we talk about current requirements in navigation data development. This first part deals with geopolitical conflicts. A second part then concentrates on nationally varying requirements for map data.

There are various functions for NDS maps, such as special ADAS maps, navigation maps or speed-assist and HD maps for autonomous driving. The classic use case, however, is navigation. NDS is structured in such a way that functions are mapped in building blocks. In the general function, the navigation map has most of these building blocks and supports functions like search, route calculation to a destination, guidance along a route or map representations with 2D and 3D objects. The NDS standard is the lingua franca for map providers and manufacturers. They can more easily make requirements of the NDS map than of possibly proprietary black box formats that are offered by the navigation manufacturer as part of the system, but where the automotive OEM gets no real insights into what is stored in the map. The NDS standard is open to members in the way data is stored so customer requirements can be met better and faster.

Key international challenges in navigation:

Where is the border? There are regions where this question cannot be answered easily. NDS supports with different map data options. (Image source: Pexels.com/ Mikhail Nilov)

Gateways help to reconcile maps

When you cross a country border by car, the first thing you notice is usually different road signs, different speed limits and usually different colors – for example, road markings. When it comes to navigation, there are other challenges to overcome as well. “The first thing that comes to mind here are requirements of a technical nature – route calculation from A to B,” says Robert Krumpolt, product manager at NDS member HERE and NDS expert. Basic requirements are that maps must be consistent across country borders. This is not a problem, as long as maps are compiled in NDS at the same time and a map release is consistent in itself. The basis for this is always the requirement of the respective provider. It becomes more complicated when parts of the map are later updated individually at the customer’s site. A country like Germany for example receives a regular update, but another country like Slovenia or Hungary does not. It must be ensured that the route calculation of parts of the map that are constantly updated and parts of the map that are outdated are coherent. Gateways with consistent IDs allow matches between newer and older parts of the map.

But there are exceptions. For example, if a new road, such as a highway, is built between two countries and it is only present in an update region boundary in the new part of the map, but not in the old one, the route calculation would not consider this highway. Instead, it would probably show a detour that is present in both map versions. Especially when new and old map parts are separated by many years, the system can reach its limits.

Geopolitical conflicts 

Maps are highly political. This has sometimes been less noticeable in recent years than in centuries past. In Europe, there is a largely uniform view of the world and markets. But if there are conflicts over national borders, this also has consequences for navigation and map development. This can involve a disputed area or territory.

NDS supports the display in the view of the respective country via different update regions. Maps can be installed so that both one and the other view are correctly displayed in the view for the target group in the respective country. “It’s sometimes complex, but doable,” Krumpolt says. The map data and information must be available and correct. City names or area codes deserve special attention. But it is also about questions like: How does reality compare to political requirement? The map data must be able to hold the respective views on disputed territories. NDS supports databases in different administrative logic. Merging is possible, but it can also lead to the need to store data redundantly in the NDS database. Sometimes it may be better to separate markets. However, this must be agreed with the customer and be practicable.

A good example that requires a special approach regarding navigation maps, can be found in Argentina and Chile. Both governments require map producers to provide up-to-date map data. There are government agencies that review all analog and digital map data. This primarily concerns country and sea borders, but they also check city names and how disputed areas are represented. One aspect is maps of parts of Antarctica, to which both Chile and Argentina lay claim. In addition to Argentina and Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Great Britain, and France also claim parts of Antarctica, and some of the claimed areas overlap. For Argentina, the representation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is also important in relation to Great Britain. Because of this situation, some government agencies have the final say in all map matters. Many car manufacturers already take specifications like this into account in their planning, so Chile and Argentina are often not offered in the same market to keep risks low.

You can read more about how to overcome intercultural challenges in map development in the second part of this blog, which will be published soon.

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