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A camera’s usefulness can be limited by obstructions – not such a big deal when you’re only snapping casual scenery shots, but something of a problem when you’re relying on that camera to help drive your car.

Autonomous vehicles utilize a variety of cameras and sensors to create maps of the road. German-based engineers Bosch and Dutch traffic mapping company TomTom announced Wednesday they have harnessed radar signals that can produce the same high-definition mapping required for driverless navigation.

Company officials believe the use of radar eliminates the problem areas cameras experience, such as bad weather conditions or nighttime driving.

“The radar road signature is a milestone on the path towards automated driving,” Dirk Hoheisel, a member of Bosch’s board of management, said in a statement. “It will enable automated vehicles to reliably determine their location at all times.”

Maps are generated when radar signals contact features in the roadway and bounce back to the vehicle. Billions of “reflection points” allow the on-board computers to locate the vehicle within a few centimeters.

Radar mapping is meant to serve as an additional layer for orientation, along with cameras and sensors.

TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn said in a statement that radar mapping “will make self-localization for automated vehicles considerably more robust in every respect.”

The companies anticipate the first vehicles to use the radar will be on the road by 2020.

jlynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

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