Meet the Navteq laser equipped car that makes maps

When strolling through the GPS and navigation section of the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, I came across a Volkswagen Jetta with a rather large piece of equipment sticking out its backside. The equipment is part of the new NAVTEQ True mapping system, and is what helps us get more reliable maps, maps with street view images and 3D building renderings.

Inside the (not factory installed) accessory, is a LIDAR system with 64 lasers, a variety of high resolution cameras and of course a whole assortment of GPS receivers. The car drives around, collecting up to 1.5 million pieces of data every second. The end result is more reliable maps, better quality street images, and 3D building data.

An example of a site using the 3D building data is the Nokia Ovi Maps service – these buildings are exact 3D replicas of the actual hotels on the Las Vegas strip. As GPS units become more powerful (and storage gets cheaper), we should start seeing 3D images and street view photo make our way onto portable devices – without the need for a data connection.

Of course, with the news of Nokia offering free lifetime turn-by-turn navigation on all its smartphones, getting access to more reliable maps is a very nice bonus (Nokia owns Navteq). So, next time you see a Volkswagen drive down your street with what looks like a rocket sticking out its rear end, smile!