As the number of people expecting the arrival of self-driving cars goes up, tech companies are working tirelessly to develop precise digital maps that are necessary to guide these wonder-cars within inches of their destination.

Self-driving cars need several pieces of technology working in tandem in order to achieve their autonomous capabilities; one such technology is 3D mapping. While many companies and entrepreneurs have made revolutionary breakthroughs in this piece of technology, they will now find themselves contending with super-efficient Japan as well.

The Japanese government is backing a three-dimensional mapping system developed by the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. The technology promises to be so precise that a car will only be off by 25 cm or 9.8 inches of its destination!

This is a huge leap forward in guidance automation as the satellite-based GPS systems used today can be off by as much as 20 metres or 65 feet, especially when that destination in indoors or underground.

The developers have said that the technology will most likely be first used by in vehicles working in an isolated environment like a warehouse. It could also be used to help drivers using vehicles that cannot drive themselves completely.

If we want to make self-driving cars possible then we need this scientific know-how, so that the cars can accurately identify what’s around them and detect obstacles down to the inch.

In order to do it correctly, 3D mapping needs a lot of data, fed via sensors, radars, and cameras. The software will need to take in factors like road conditions including repair works, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, buildings, and other obstacles. And we’re not even considering things like weather and visibility at this point.

All of this data has to be analysed by the software which will then decide what the car should do next, should it turn, put on the brakes, move forward, backward, faster or slower.

Yasuhide Shibata, senior general manager of Mitsubishi Electric, said, “For autonomous driving, 3-D high-precision maps will be very important, allowing cars to know their positions accurately and also know what the roads are like ahead,”

Japan will also get positioning information from its government satellites starting November. They want driverless cars to be ready and rolling by 2020. This is a rather ambitious undertaking but it is because of such ambition that we have moved so far forward.

They also set this date as the deadline because it coincides with the Tokyo Olympics, which will be the perfect place to showcase this technological wonder.