Navigating roads less traveled in self-driving cars is a difficult task. One reason is that there aren’t many places where self-driving cars can actually drive. Companies like Google only test their fleets in major cities where they’ve spent countless hours meticulously labeling the exact 3-D positions of lanes, curbs, off-ramps, and stop signs.
“The cars use these maps to know where they are and what to do in the presence of new obstacles like pedestrians and other cars,” says Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “The need for dense 3-D maps limits the places where self-driving cars can operate.”