A portion of IKONOS source imagery, showing seam overlaps, and the final, specially-processed mosaic of the same location.

Remote Sensing Applied to Developing Renewable Energy

Fujitsu Ten adds the real world to next-generation systems

Mr. Katsuyuki Nakai
Product Planning Dept.
Engineering Div. 2
Fujitsu Ten
Mr. Kenmin Cho
Assistant Manger
Sales Group D
Japan Space Imaging

Electronic car navigation systems (CNS) have a large and growing market worldwide, especially in Japan. Japanese cities have grown dramatically over many centuries, and are still growing. Most roads have no names, and finding one’s way can be challenging. So it is no surprise that the first GPS-based car navigation system was developed in Japan in 1990, and that the use of such systems in Japan is higher than in other parts of the world.

When Fujitsu Ten, a member of the Toyota Group, decided to enter the CNS market in 1997, developers knew they would have to take market share away from more established firms. To do this, they needed not only to provide excellent performance at a competitive price, but also to offer clear functional differences–features and capabilities their competitors did not provide.

First, Fujitsu Ten recognized that many elements of CNS units, including the display, speakers, DVD reader and others, are duplicated in on-board entertainment packages. Integrating the entertainment and navigation functions into an Audio-Visual Navigation (AVN) system increased the system value and reduced dashboard clutter. While parked, the AVN can play music or video DVDs. While under way, the driver gets needed route information and can still enjoy music. This concept has proved very popular, to the point where the general term “AVN” means specifically the Fujitsu Ten product in the minds of consumers.

In 2002, Fujitsu Ten took another big step in differentiating AVN from its competitors by introducing the use of Space Imaging’s (Thornton, Colorado) IKONOS satellite imagery as the map base. Other systems use simple line maps to show the car’s location; AVN shows the surrounding buildings and terrain as they actually appear. This means that, in a complex city like Tokyo, the driver can orient himself in a picture of his actual surroundings.

An illustration of the AVN unit, showing a split-screen display with image and vector maps of the same location.

For the first year, over 3,800 square kilometers of image-based maps were provided. These included the Tokyo and Osaka metropolitan areas. In 2003 this was expanded to 11,000 square kilometers, with 43 additional cities. In 2004 another 6,000 units will be added, with coverage of all the prefectural capitals in Japan.

For clear, seamless display of large areas, just to show the imagery as it had been collected was not enough. First, cloud-free, near-vertical imagery of the entire area had to be acquired. Next, this imagery was combined to make a seamless mosaic and was specially processed for a uniform appearance with natural-looking color. This makes the precise location and appearance information inherent in IKONOS imagery available to the motorist in an attractive color display. A new concept in vehicle navigation, combining accurate maps and real imagery, had come into being.

Since there is a great deal of detail in IKONOS imagery, it is not necessarily optimal for use as a route guide. Drivers must keep their eyes on the road and make rapid decisions while moving at high speed, so a 2D/3D vector map display is also provided. The detailed imagery shows its great value when the driver needs to orient himself in a specific area or to find a particular route, and when passengers in the car can enjoy watching a real display of where they are driving. The IKONOS imagery allows the driver to visualize both present location and destination in advance from his seat behind the steering wheel. Graphic icons showing landmark buildings, baseball stadiums and many other locations of interest can be overlaid on the display to help the driver find the easiest or best route.

According to Mr. Takao Yamaguchi, General Manager of the Product Planning Department at Fujitsu Ten, “IKONOS has emphasized high-resolution Video Graphic Array displays and enabled more realistic navigation. This has brought both convenience and visual enjoyment to drivers and passengers.” The response from customers has been enthusiastic. A 24-year-old engineer in Osaka said that he frequently uses the IKONOS imagery to orient himself to new locations. Ibaraki states, “It is very convenient when I drive in an area where I am not familiar with so much.” A 29-year-old lady on an office staff in Hyogo Prefecture explained, “It is good to see the real appearance of the surroundings.” There is also the attraction of new technology. An engineer in Osaka noted that “It’s fun! I can impress friends with IKONOS.”

It has been a long and complex process to bring high-resolution satellite imagery to CNS. The very detailed imagery requires a great deal of storage, even when the data are compressed. Systems which use only vector maps can store the data on CDs. The first generation IKONOS AVN8802 used DVDs; in the second generation AVN9902 these have been replaced by two removable 20GB hard disk drives (HDD). Fujitsu Ten will add new coverage to the HDDs as it becomes available.

Japanese CNS manufacturers are reaching a common conclusion: CNS should provide accurate, easy-to-use route planning and driving information, and should also serve as multi-function entertainment centers. With AVN, the CNS has progressed from a relatively simple driving tool to become a partner to the driver, providing navigation, location information and entertainment.

The CNS market continues to grow rapidly, and drivers are demanding more and more capabilities and features from their navigation systems. Fujitsu Ten is working to stay ahead of customer expectations by adding more coverage area, display zoom, additional content and other enhancements. In all of this growth, satellite imagery is expected to play an important role. Image-based displays will remain a major discriminator among CNS options, and Fujitsu Ten aims to keep their competitive edge by providing various kinds of critical information to drivers with maximum practical value.

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