While 2022 is coming to a close, the world keeps on turning and will make sure that also in 2023 we are set to expect further action around geodata, mapping, and simulation – just to name a few. Today, we will gaze into the crystal ball and try to see what key topics for next year may be.
One of them came just recently to our attention: “Linux Foundation Announces Overture Maps Foundation to Build Interoperable Open Map Data” was announced on December 15, 2022. It reads like our postulation for consistent geodata processing coming true. Key players in the tech sector and one mapping specialist are combining forces to initiate an open-source platform for collecting, maintaining, and extending map data based on a common data schema. They also claim to introduce a global entity reference system and appropriate quality assurance processes in the project. This is not short at all of what we had described in our blog entry. Now, let’s only hope that the scope will also take the needs of multimodal transportation schemes into account. But this initiative is definitely one to keep an eye on during the next 365 days.
Automated driving programs will keep making progress. And, as usual, we expect the outcome of some of the projects to be the insight that things are more complex than expected and might take longer than planned. Automated driving has been “just around the corner” for each of the past ten years or so. As our post on robotaxis showed, there have been (too) many similar programs trying to achieve the same. Interestingly, maps seem to have been one blocker for scaling some systems; if the Linux Foundation succeeds (see above), this obstacle could soon be removed. Robotaxis are getting deployed within well-defined Operational Design Domains (ODDs) already and we are set to see them enter more areas also during 2023.
Simulation environments will continue to evolve as important part of bringing automated driving onto the road. There are still huge gaps regarding realistic test results and the accuracy of the modeling. Toolchains for comprehensive scenario-based testing get more important and will be promoted more and more by tool providers. Additional scenario databases will be created to incorporate scenarios from public and approval authorities, which have to be completed successfully and demonstrated by every automated driving system. But a lot of specialized simulation components and their integration into toolchains are still unanswered research questions.
Research programs for automated driving are abundant. At the end of 2021, the German ministry for economy and energy listed 40+ government-funded projects in this area. If you look at their support program for the key technology “Vehicle and System Technologies”, the total number now comes close to 60. What will Germany achieve with spending all this taxpayers’ money? Subsidies for key technologies are and will remain Germany’s answer to big tech. With Germany’s Mittelstand employing 58% of the workforce and representing more than 99% of all companies, it seems important to keep providing them platforms for collaboration – not only between each other but also for channeling innovative academic research into actual products. We will definitely need to keep an eye on the research project landscape also in 2023. And we may need to look well beyond the German borders.
Standardization is another topic that should be closely watched in 2023. The culture clash of “code first vs. definition first” has just started. The software-defined vehicle is the hot topic. Tech companies claim to understand software better than the “classic” automotive industry; but the opposite seems to be true for the know-how to integrate, market, and maintain vehicles. Now, where will standardization be? Right in the middle. We may see in 2023 (or later) a domain shift which will give the pragmatists of software-first principles a substantial say in what should go into a (vehicle) system. But we will also see the quality- and liability-aware implementers of such systems ask for long-term maintainability and proper planning, alignment, collaboration, and – last but not least – documentation. Anyway, expect to see more of that in 2023. Many more topics will need our attention in 2023. We tried to highlight just a few that, we think, are worth watching. But as always in technology: the unknown unknowns are the ones to expect and be ready to address. In one year from now, we will surely be able to write about what has hit us unexpectedly.
Postscript: What happens next year in the railway and city planning domains? Well, to be honest: Not much. As in the recent years these two domains lack the possibility of finding well-financed stakeholders to create new business cases and, therefore, no new players will add new innovations or impulses to these domains. Railway and city planning will adopt approaches and tools from the automotive domain years after they proved successful and were established.