Work zones are essential for the health of America’s roadways; they are necessary to maintain and improve our roads year-over-year. However, unexpected delays in work zones can throw a wrench in the best-laid plans. Whatever the reason a project is delayed, those setbacks can have ripple effects on everyone who depends on the roads, including autonomous vehicles. 

HD Maps are an essential piece of many automated driving systems (ADS). When road work is completed, those maps need to be updated, which can be costly. Some companies can spend thousands of dollars updating each kilometer of road. Timing those updates is crucial. If companies try to update their maps too early, they’ll find the work zone instead of a completed stretch of road, meaning they’ll need to return later. But if they take too long to update the map, then their maps remain out-of-date, even after construction has been completed. 

A Real World Example

Take, for example, Westborough Blvd. According to the South San Francisco City website, Westborough Blvd was scheduled to be milled, repaved, and repainted in July 2022. The projected dates provided on the website were July 1st to July 29th. From this, we assume that on July 1st any HD Maps that covered the area became out-of-date. To get those maps back up-to-date, Westborough Blvd would need to be reentered on or after July 30th, the day after construction was scheduled to be completed. 

The reality, however, did not go to plan. Whatever caused the delay is not immediately apparent, and no update is to be found on the South San Francisco City website. Whatever happened, according to V-Markings Level 1 Data, the new pavement markings were not added until September 21st and 22nd of that year. This, of course, means that any attempts to update the map of Westborough Blvd on the logical date of July 30th would have been for nothing, and all of August, and most of September. 

The road work still was technically not complete. It wasn’t until January 26, 2023, that the finishing touches were painted: permanent guiding edge lines. This means that whatever the state of the road after September 22nd, any updated maps were again out-of-date only a few months later.

From start to finish, a job scheduled to be completed within 29 days, in reality, took 82 days for the primary markings to be added and over 200 total days from the beginning of the project for the final lines to be painted. That’s over 200 days during which any attempts to update the map for that stretch of road would have only recorded the work in progress and not the final form of the road. 

Knowing When Changes Happen

In order to maintain accurate maps, It’s essential to have a system in place that can alert companies when roads have changed. This way, HD Maps can be quickly and efficiently updated, ensuring that autonomous vehicles have access to the most up-to-date information about the road. With the ability to be alerted about changes in road markings, companies can stay ahead of the curve, saving time and money on their map upkeep efforts.

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