Artificial intelligence and camera software is being trialled to build a more detailed map of the UK’s road network.
Mapping agency Ordnance Survey has launched trials with Mobileye, an Intel-owned technology firm which specialises in computer vision technology to map roads and the objects around them.
The trials, which will use cameras mounted on vehicles to spot and identify roadside infrastructure including traffic lights, lampposts and manhole covers, will be used to build new mapping data that will one day be used as a key part of the technology used to power driverless cars.
Fleets of cars and vans are to be fitted with the Mobileye 8 Connect camera, which will gather information from journeys, including the appearance of roadworks and the location of drainage grates.
Mobileye chief executive Professor Amnon Shashua said: “A future of smart cities and safe streets is within reach when we equip governments and businesses with high-precision mapping data.
“We look forward to seeing the continuing progress of our trials.”
Ordnance Survey interim chief executive Neil Ackroyd said the new data could be used as a “building block for Britain’s infrastructure for many years”, including the expected rollout of autonomous vehicles.
“At OS we strive to create environments that support new technologies and data services across the public and private sector.
“The OS collaboration with Mobileye further enhances our commitment to supporting Britain as a world-leading centre for digital and tech excellence.”
Utility company Northumbrian Water has confirmed it will join the trials, becoming one of the first UK firms to try the technology.
It will add the data-capturing cameras to its vehicles to capture data in the North East.
The company said being able to see more detailed maps of roadsides could help prevent incidents where maintenance work damages water pipes or cabling.
Clive Surman-Wells, the firm’s operations solutions manager, said: “We’re really excited and proud to be the first utility company to have the opportunity to try this new technology.
“There are so many benefits that have the potential to really change the game when it comes to helping manage our networks and keep our customers’ water flowing.”