A duel in the Audi A8: HERE navigation vs. taxi driver
Who is the taxi driver who is challenging the navigation system?
It’s 3 pm at an Aral gas station on Leopoldstraße in Munich. It’s a cloudy Tuesday afternoon, and Franz Daumer is sipping a cup of coffee. He has a long night behind him and is facing another tonight, so this probably won’t be his last coffee. Franz is a taxi driver and works permanent night shift. The Munich man has been sitting at the wheel of his car, pulling all-nighters for the past 14 years. But he’s not looking for sympathy. He’s one of the few people who have truly found their calling. “If this job didn’t exist, I would have had to invent it,” says Franz, laughing. “I love my job. I can choose my own hours and I really like being on the road at night because the party people are so colorful and far more relaxed.”
Franz has covered more than 140,000 kilometers with his taxi in the space of just one-and-a-half years. Anyone who spends that much time in a vehicle develops a special relationship with it. Which is why his taxi also has a name: “Schickeria-Schleuder”.
And Franz has already been through a lot with her: “One night, I was waiting in front of the Hofbräuhaus when suddenly this drunk guy came staggering up to my taxi. He climbs in, and it wasn’t until I took a second look that I realized it was Bruce Willis. I drove him to his hotel, which was only 500 meters down the street. But he was probably too disoriented, or too drunk.”
Arriving quickly — even without a navigation system
In his job, Franz can’t allow himself to be disoriented. To earn his taxi license, he learnt the vast majority of Munich’s streets by heart. He knows every square, every park and every promenade. He’s a master at dodging traffic jams. His gut feel and his experience are his best navigation system. When asked how he fancies his chances in a race against the world’s most state-of-the-art navigation system, he nods confidently and says: “I know what I know. Challenge accepted.”
The taxi legend’s opponent: the HERE navigation system
Around 24 hours later at Audi’s Technical Development complex in Ingolstadt: Guido Müller is filled with anticipation. Today, he’s going to drive against taxi legend Franz Daumer in a race from the Schlossmuseum in Ismaning to the Residenztheater in downtown Munich. Guido is Project Leader for the HERE navigation system in the Audi A8.
There’s only one question on his mind today: Who is faster? Taxi driver Franz with his experience or the navigation system Guido and his colleagues have been working on for the past four years.
What the HERE navigation system in the Audi A8 is capable of
Even on our way to the vehicle, we can already see what the new system can do. Guido enters the address into the myAudi app on his smartphone. The app begins navigating and first guides us to the vehicle. As soon as Guido steps inside, the Audi A8 automatically begins route guidance to the previously entered destination.
“We want this end-to-end navigation to offer the customer a holistic solution that guides him from his door to his vehicle and then to his final destination,” explains Guido then starts the engine.
As we travel on the A9 heading for Munich, Guido explains the navigation system’s other high- lights. He’s completely relaxed as he drives along the middle lane, guiding the car with gentle steering movements. Suddenly a tighter corner emerges in front of us and the Audi A8 automatically lowers the speed. “This function is called predictive ACC (Editor: Adaptive Cruise Control). The navigation delivers data to the system based on the route currently being driven. It knows in advance what bends lie ahead and at which speed I can take them,” says Guido. “This function is also an important element of autonomous driving.”
The further development of autonomous driving is one of the reasons for Audi acquiring HERE in 2015 from Nokia, together with other German auto-makers. “What we see in HERE is far more than purely a guidance experience to get from A to B,” he says. “HERE’s maps are extremely accurate down to the last ten centimeters. We’ll need this kind of precision later when Audi wants to put autonomous driving into series production.”
The accurate map material is one of HERE’s great strengths. Furthermore, the new system offers precise traffic information from geodata service, TomTom, and comprehensive search functionality from Google. “Each service has its own strengths. We’re bringing them together in a single system to offer the customer the best outcome,” says Guido as he exits the A9.
Franz the taxi driver meets his opponent, the HERE navigation system in the Audi A8
Shortly before our arrival at the Schlossmuseum in Ismaning, a notice appears on the navigation screen ask ing if we need a parking space. “This notice appears as soon as you approach your destination. If the drivers confirms, the software searches for a parking space and directs the driver there,” explains Guido. But we’re not looking for a parking space, just Guido’s opponent for today – Franz, the taxi driver.
He’s already waiting at the side of the road, leaning casually on his Schickeria-Schleuder. Guido steps out and the two men greet each other warmly. Obviously, Franz is keen to meet his opponent first. He settles him- self into the passenger seat of the new Audi A8 and takes an inquisitive look around the interior, while Guido gives him a short crash course in HERE navigation.
The two men appear to get along well – but there’s still a race to run. Franz gets back into his taxi, and they’re off. Both men accelerate sharply and head into the beginnings of the evening rush hour.
The duel between man and navigation system begins
Guido’s chattiness evident on the way here evaporates. Deep in concentration, he steers the Audi A8 through the heavy traffic. The HERE navigation guides him deftly through the busy roads.
Franz is driving right in front of us. He had a better start, and we drive behind him for a while along Oberföhringerstraße. As we leave Oberföhring, Franz suddenly takes a right turn. The HERE navigation tells us to drive on. Is Franz perhaps aware of a traffic jam unknown to the navigation system? Guido doesn’t let it bother him and sticks to his course.
But the succession of red lights keeps slowing us down. Seconds become eternities. Maybe Franz is intentionally avoiding this flood of stoplights and is slinking along back roads. Is the Schickeria-Schleuder going to beat us?
Guido picks up the tempo after every red light. But the traffic is getting heavier and sometimes we come to a complete standstill. Guido’s gas foot is getting nervous. The finish line is still around 1.5 kilometers away. As we head along Maximilianstraße towards our destination, Guido uses a gap in the traffic to make up some time. We arrive at the finish line after around 15 kilometers.
HERE Navigation wins by a narrow margin
Franz and Guido review the race results. Guido asks why he turned off. “The traffic on the Oberföhringer is usually heavy at that time and I wanted to avoid the congestion. But unfortunately, I drove into construction site and lost time,” responds Franz. In Munich, roadworks can pop up from nowhere overnight.
Nevertheless, it was a very close race, just that the HERE navigation was able to score a narrow victory this time. Franz takes it like a sportsman and gives Guido a high five before climbing back into his Schickeria- Schleuder. It’s the start of his shift.