The Challenge of Digitization

<< 1. Behind the Success of the CVCC Engine
<< 2. Creating a Progressive Strategy
<< 3. A Gas-rate Gyro Comprising Just Eight Parts
<< 4. Gyrocator Development: A Path Strewn with Difficulties
<< 5. Could the Map Be Wrong?
<< 6. The Final Test: From Suzuka to Tokyo
<< 7. The Challenge of Digitization
<< 8. "A System That Cannot Lie"
<< 9. Analog to Digital: A Three-year Detour Leads to the Goal

The development of next-generation navigation systems was initiated in January 1982, five months after the release of the Gyrocator. Three concurrent sub-projects were started under the main development theme, the objectives of which were as follows:

[1] Develop an analog map-based navigation system as
an advanced version of the Gyrocator (generation 1.5).
  [2] Develop a fully automated system that uses com puter and digital maps to perform automatic map matching (second generation).
  [3] Study the technology of optical-fiber gyroscopics.

Honda had decided to run three projects concurrently in order to ensure its dominance in the field of navigation, especially with respect to other manufacturers. However, what would pave the way for Honda's future was the project dedicated to digital map navigation.

Yukinobu Nakamura, who had proposed systems using digital maps, was appointed the project's LPL (Large Project Leader). Outlined in his mind was a direction that would transform the analog system to the digital format. In fact, beginning in about 1980 Nakamura had briefly studied on a company scholarship at the Electronics Engineering Research Laboratory of the Industrial Engineering Institute, an organization operating under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry located in Tsukuba Gakuen City, Ibaragi Prefecture. During his study of optical-fiber gyro technology there, Nakamura had conceived the idea of a digital, map-based navigation system.

The major difference between an analog map system and its digital counterpart is that the latter employs a function known as "map matching." It's a technology whereby the system uses digitized map information to compare the car's actual direction of travel to road patterns, thus determining the current position with a higher degree of accuracy. Although the technology itself was developed over a course of several phases by multiple companies, it was Honda that eventually got hold of the basic technological patents, including the map-matching technology and know-how in digital map creation, including partition storage, composite display, smooth scrolling of the screen, etc. Because of this, the company was able to pioneer digital map technology as we know it today.
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