Dispelling Three Common Misperceptions About Autonomous Vehicles: How Digital Roads Are Paving The Way To Self-Driving Cars

North America’s GeoDigital is building ultra-precise digital roads as the essential building block for the autonomous-vehicle industry

The importance of precise 3D road maps to the future of autonomous cars was recently highlighted by a German car consortium’s plans to buy Nokia Here, a European digital mapping provider, for US$2.7bn.

Major developments are also occurring in North America, where GeoDigital, a big spatial data and analytics expert, is mapping the continent’s highway system with ultra-high precision.

Self-driving vehicles, once considered a futuristic concept, are expected to be an $80 billion industry within just 15 years, according to industry analysts. In the U.S. alone, some experts anticipate the economic benefits of autonomous cars to exceed $1 trillion. Coming to grips with how self-driving cars will one day rule the roads can still be a difficult concept to grasp. But we’re closer to this reality than most people think.

Google’s self-driving car is one of the highest profile examples to date, having navigated the roads of Silicon Valley since 2010. But most major auto manufacturers have also announced plans to roll out autonomous or semi-autonomous cars, with release dates ranging from 2017 to 2020. What is less clear is exactly how these early pilot programs become a mass-production vehicle reality. GeoDigital’s 3D digital road maps may be the foundational infrastructure needed to get the mass-produced self-driving car on the road.

While intelligent-sensing technologies are evolving rapidly, for autonomous-driving cars to truly become mainstream (i.e., affordable, safe and feasible), the vehicles will need to rely on very precise data regarding the roads on which they’ll be traveling. Different from ‘navigation’ style maps, autonomous cars require significantly more data to deliver a smooth and safe driving experience across different conditions. Understanding the importance of such data requires dispelling a few myths about where the industry currently stands.

Myth #1: In-vehicle sensing technologies will work well across all driving experiences.
Reality: In one commonly cited example, in-vehicle sensing is limited in its ability to enable safe and reliable driving on snowy roads. Such driving conditions will require the autonomous vehicle to be equipped with highly detailed maps to augment other systems. In a recent example, a sensing technology being used by one emerging automotive player proved to be less effective when lane markings were not clearly visible. Pre-loaded high-precision maps will enable autonomous vehicles to overcome many of these challenges – staying within lanes when wintry conditions obscure the road or negotiate corners smoothly and safely when traveling on high-speed highways. Only the most sophisticated mapping systems will be capable of collecting the vast amount of data required to navigate such conditions.

Myth #2: All maps are created equal
Reality: “At GeoDigital, we have created the most precise digital road maps available in the market,” says CEO Chris Warrington. “Our proprietary technology uniquely combines LiDAR (akin to a ‘laser range finder’) and high-definition imagery captured by industrial-grade sensors that have been proven in the utility, rail and defense industries. Our enormous investment in technology begets not only the most data, but also the most precise. ”

GeoDigital’s “digital roads” [watch video] include highly specific information to help cars navigate road curvature, road surface information, lane widths and markings, signs barriers, bridge heights and many more features that are critical to enable safe and smooth autonomous driving. To create a digital road with this level of detail, GeoDigital’s sensors collect LiDAR at 800,000 points per second in addition to obtaining high definition imagery. With centimeter level precision, GeoDigital maps have the capability to determine positional accuracy within 10cm.

The technology has already been proven in real-world environments, including field tests and other validation methods to ensure pinpoint accuracy. GeoDigital will emerge with North America’s largest high precision digital road database – well beyond the safe confines of Google’s test in Silicon Valley.

Myth #3: Digital road maps will be impossible to keep up to date.
Reality: GeoDigital has a patent pending for technology that will capture updates where real-world changes will be captured through the industrial cloud by sensor- enabled cars and leverage GeoDigital’s spatial data processing and analytics expertise to integrate changes into the master map in near-real-time. GeoDigital is also in discussions with other automotive industry participants, including state and federal regulatory bodies that oversee the transportation industry, to stay abreast of major road projects.

In the future, cars and infrastructure will become more connected – sharing information about the road conditions and potential hazards. New remote sensing technologies with artificial intelligence will interpret objects and road conditions in real time. As the sophistication of this supporting technology evolves, so too will the backbone of spatial intelligence that supports it. As summarized by CEO Warrington: “GeoDigital is capitalizing on the ever-increasing effectiveness of artificial intelligence. Our strength in big spatial data and analytics, combined with our deep experience in transportation and utilities, gives us the ability and flexibility to innovate as these technologies continue to evolve.” GeoDigital recently named Chris Thibodeau as the General Manager of the Autonomous Driving business unit to lead the digital roads project and expand investment into innovative big spatial data and analytics technologies as autonomous driving becomes a mass-production reality. Learn More about Chris Thibodeau.

New GeoDigital vegetation management calculator estimates over $1 billion in savings for north american utilities

By moving from human to digital inspections utilities in North America can conservatively save $1 billion, reduce risk of vegetation-related outages whilst improving efficiency, safety and enabling compliance

GeoDigital, a big spatial data and insight company, has partnered with The McDonnell Group, a leading integrated energy industry marketing firm, to launch an online calculator which provides an estimate of the potential financial benefit of moving from human-based to digital-based patrol for vegetation inspection. Based on FERC data and a number of large utility business cases, the calculator estimates the efficiencies from precision inspection and prediction of vegetation growth. It models the potential savings in areas such as reduced vegetation management cost, more accurate and competitive contractor bids, and selective use of herbicide as part of the total vegetation management lifecycle. McDonnell Group used FERC data to extrapolate over $1 billion in potential savings for the North American utility industry.

“Despite significant investments by the utility industry in the past decade, every year millions of people across North America are impacted by preventable vegetation related outages. Precision analysis with digital tools can drive significant cost savings across utility vegetation management programs while reducing risk, improving safety and enhancing environmental benefits over traditional methods,” said Chuck Anderson, GM of North American Utilities at GeoDigital. “GeoDigital is leading a paradigm shift in the industry with a unique big spatial data and insight solution that spans the vegetation management lifecycle. We are excited to launch this calculator to begin the dialogue within the industry about the potential this kind of business transformation holds.”

The traditional methods of vegetation management requires human-based inspections – typically from low-slow flying helicopters and binoculars. GeoDigital’s vegetation solution turns the process digital – starting with remote sensing technology that includes LiDAR and high definition imagery collected more regularly, safely and efficiently than traditional methods. Patented analytics are applied to evaluate and predict vegetation threats and location-based work management software is used to manage the work associated with the most imminent threats, or those which fall into the clearance area mandated by regulations such as FAC003-3.

Peter Manos, Principal Strategy Consultant at McDonnell Group who developed the calculator by using actual utility business case and FERC data said, “Third-party evaluations as well as internal utility ROI calculations have demonstrated the significant benefits for early adopters of these best practice vegetation approaches.”

Utilities can try the simple online calculator at www.geodigital.com/calculator. While the calculator is intended to provide an orders of magnitude savings estimate, utilities can work with a GeoDigital consultant to customize the calculator results for unique operating conditions and corporate strategy.

About GeoDigital:

GeoDigital, a big spatial data and analytics company, helps industries efficiently manage critical assets and the world around them. GeoDigital’s innovative solutions combine 3D maps – built on remote sensing and imaging technologies such as LiDAR – with patented analytics and location-based work management software. By providing precision insights, GeoDigital enables customers to predict threats and prioritize actions to solve complex geospatial challenges. With data-driven confidence, GeoDigital helps to guide people, autonomous cars, machines and infrastructure more safely, reliably and productively.

Founded in 2005, GeoDigital has operations in the United States, Canada, and Australia and its investors include NGP Energy Technology Partners, North Sky Capital, EnerTech Capital and Emerald Technology Ventures. Visit www.geodigital.com to find out more.

Digital Vegetation Management: A Billion Dollar Opportunity

In 2003, overgrown vegetation and power system issues brought havoc to the Northeast United States and lower Ontario. In the second largest blackout in world history, 55 million people were left without electricity, in some cases for more than two days, for reasons that went unexplained for weeks.

Images of thousands of New Yorkers navigating their way home in the darkness through the streets of Manhattan, over bridges to outer boroughs and suburbs, will stay with people forever. Vegetation, like the trees that took out high voltage lines in rural Ohio and started the blackout, will always threaten the fidelity of the grid.

Managing that threat comes at a significant cost for utilities. However, it’s a cost that can be moderated by moving from human-based to digital-based patrols of vegetation. GeoDigital has built the most comprehensive platform of digital remote sensing, analysis and work management tools that bring vegetation management into the digital era. The possible savings are more than $1 billion a year across the U.S. grid. Utilities can gauge their own savings from utilizing these methods via a calculator tool provided by GeoDigital and McDonnell Group.

Utilities in the United States manage 400,000 miles of transmission lines valued at more than $200 billion. Protecting those assets isn’t just a priority for shareholders and management, it’s also required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC’s newest set of regulations covers all power lines operated at more than 200kV that extend beyond 1.609 miles from the generating station switchyard or that do not have a clear line of sight down the line from the generating station.

The top 100 utilities reporting to FERC have an average of 2,868 miles of transmission lines, with the top 12 holding an average of 9,100 miles. These lines course over terrain as varied as swamps, lush plains, arid deserts and high alpine environments, with wildly different vegetation threats. Cost savings for these biggest of players can run into the tens of millions of dollars per year.

In many cases, the traditional methods of vegetation management, with humans involved at every step, have remained unchanged for decades. By using just their eyes, field workers are required to sweep every foot of foliage falling under regulation. GeoDigital has taken this once-laborious process and infused it with technology that analyzes vegetation threats, projects future growth and directs work plans to best tackle the most imminent threats to a utilities’ carrying capacity. The GeoDigital suite of sensing, software and services offers transmission line owners a way to mitigate compliance challenges while keeping their lines safer than ever before from vegetative interference.

The foundation of the GeoDigital platform starts with LiDAR and high resolution imaging of a utilities’ right-of-ways. With this 3-D scan of assets and their surrounding vegetation, GeoDigital software can get to work detecting where vegetation is most likely to cause a problem in the near future. Crews can then be dispatched according to a comprehensive system of prioritization and efficiency.

Merely planning maintenance for the 400,000 miles of high voltage line in the United States costs utilities $5.2 billion a year. Introducing GeoDigital processes could save, conservatively, 4.8% of those costs, amounting to $250 million.

Even bigger savings can be squeezed from utilities costs in the maintenance work itself. Savings nationwide within this funnel could amount to $400 million by leveraging GeoDigital software to best allocate crews to places of need while eschewing locations where vegetation trimming holds few near term benefits.

Other projected savings from applying a mixed solution of software, automation, drone spot-checking and better coordinated work plans across the U.S. grid can bring significant benefits to utilities. Visit to try the calculator out against your utility line miles today.

NERC FAC-003-2 goes into effect July 1, 2014. Will you be ready to comply? PCM from GeoDigital will assure that you are!

Our PCM Program for Electric Utilities empowers you in these areas:

  • Streamlined Decision Making PCM provides you with knowledge, data and confidence – enabling faster and more accurate decision-making
  • Increased ROI Precisely focus your application of resources, to lower costs and increase efficiencies across the enterprise
  • Reduced Risk

Detailed and in-depth knowledge of NERC regulations is programmed into PCM

As part of our continuing effort to provide the latest technology for serving the needs of our electric power transmission customers, GeoDigital offers this detailed introduction to our comprehensive, next-generation program, which leverages our 20 years of industry-leading experience and ongoing innovation in utility corridor management.

PCM consolidates all GeoDigital’s products and services into a focused, customer-centric solution strategy, with the goal of assisting Electric Utilities in their NERC compliance efforts, and establishing mutually-beneficial, long-term business relationships with our enterprise customers.

To learn more about the positive and immediate impact PCM can bring to your business, please explore the attached document.
We also encourage you to visit our website, for the latest information.
Please contact us to discuss your particular needs.
Thank you.

GeoDigital International Inc. Highlights PCM Precision Corridor Management at ISA 2013 Conference

Hamilton, Ontario, August 21th, 2013 — Attendees at the recent ISA 2013 Conference in Toronto had the opportunity to learn more about GeoDigital International’s industry leading Precision Corridor Management (PCM) program. This comprehensive solution offers utilities more than just data or software modules. It provides a complete geospatial asset management system designed to integrate with a customer’s existing enterprise workflows, including support for mobile operations.

GeoDigital International’s CEO Alastair Jenkins commented: “From the customer’s perspective, PCM saves them time and money. For the first time, they have a business partner whom they can rely on to be there over the entire lifecycle of an asset. The continuing growth in demand for our Precision Corridor Management services is the best indication that we are providing customers with true value – in the form of return on investment and lower risk. It’s all about delivering results.”

Electric utilities and other corridor asset owners require accurate and timely geospatial information, especially during an emergency. PCM embodies more than 20 years of experience in working with customers, to understand their need for timely, reliable geospatial information that is accessible across the entire enterprise, under the most demanding conditions.

About GeoDigital International
GeoDigital International provides utilities and other distributed asset industries with industry-leading geospatial information management solutions. With one of the largest fleets of airborne/mobile LiDAR and digital imaging sensor systems in North America, we collect and process data under the most challenging project schedules and conditions. Our custom-designed, enterprise software products are then tailored to meet the specific business workflow needs of our customers, including the ability to support mobile workforces in real time. As these needs change, GeoDigital continuously improves our services, with the goal of delivering timely, mission-critical geospatial information systems that increase efficiency and reduce risk. To better support our customers, we have offices strategically located throughout Canada and the United States.