Note: Woven Planet became Woven by Toyota on April 1, 2023.
To celebrate Geography Awareness Week, we sat down to chat with Ariel Kadouri, an engineer on our Automated Mapping team, to learn more about him and the work he does here.
Q: What is your title at Woven Planet?
A: Engineer II, Feature Regeneration, Automated Mapping.
Q: And what does that translate to in actual work?
A: My team builds technology that keeps our maps up to date, using low-cost sensors. This includes things such as making changes when roads are repaved, or new traffic lights and stop signs are added. Streets are constantly changing, and we want to make sure the data automated driving systems are relying on are as reflective of the actual environment as possible.
Q: How did you get into this field?
A: It started as an Undergrad in Geography at the University of Washington — where several of us on the Automated Mapping team got their start! I am also really interested in the safety implications of improving automated-driving.
Q: Why do maps matter in the world of automated driving?
A: Maps let you know what’s ahead of you, allowing you to plan beyond where you can see. And the same is true for automated vehicles. Maps also give automated vehicles data that help contextualize what they’re “seeing” through their sensors — my boss calls this an intuitive understanding of the road.
Q: Why is your work important?
A: Just looking at the US alone, there were over 40,000 road deaths last year, and we’re very focused on adding a level of safety and trust to the future of mobility. Maps really help vehicles anticipate things like crosswalks and bike lanes, hopefully enabling us to reduce the number of road casualties in the future.
Q: Do you have a favorite map?
A: I can’t choose just one! So here are three I love:
This shows travel time throughout France coming from Paris, beautiful visualization from an older period.
Only Minnesotans Say ‘Duck, Duck, Gray Duck!
The scale is wrong, Ohio should be way bigger!
Q: What work are you most proud of?
A: I’m most proud of the global change detection work we’ve done to keep track of road signs. I’ve been focusing on stop sign and speed limit signs, in particular. I’ve learned so much about what different roads look like across cities, states and countries. When we detect a new or updated sign, the software I build helps automate the addition of the sign to the map and make sure the map reflects the downstream, rules-of-the-road effects of the the sign. These signs provide important contextual information for AVs and are often changing as cities redesign their streets. This is especially true as of late, as cities work to address things like unsafe road conditions, pedestrian access, bike access and quality-of-life issues.
Q: Do you do any map related work in your free time?
A: Along with other volunteers, I contribute to pedestrian and cycle mapping on OpenStreetMap in New York City. Essentially, I help map sidewalks and curb cuts to improve accessible mapping. I recently presented this work at the 15th Annual OpenStreetMap State of the Map Conference in Italy, which you can watch here.
Q: What does the future have in store?
A: I’m really excited to scale our solutions to more places and continue to learn from the experiences our colleagues have from their past work. Between working with Japanese maps (something I haven’t really had much experience with), the scale and complexity of the data we work with, and the close relationship to Toyota — it’s an exciting time to be working at Woven Planet, building great geospatial tech. Nothing better than producing great maps, sharing them with people who appreciate them, and making the roads a little safer!