Ever wonder how maps in your sat-nav system get made?
 
Tele Atlas is the largest electronic 'mappers', providing digitized road topography for nav systems from companies like Navman, TomTom, Pioneer – they work with 55% of the personal navigation market suppliers.
 
They showed Chris at CES the vehicle that actually does the mapping. The Toyota Sienna pictured is equipped with roof-top cameras hooked into computers. The Sienna here is one of eight in the U.S., and 'maps' info from 180 degrees. Some mapping vans already in use in Europe go 360-degrees, however.
 
They also cull data from 50,000 sources (places like the postal service and zoning commissions) for heightened accuracy.

Follow the jump to learn more about how digital maps are made for your fancy sat-nav...
Tele Atlas is working to create interactive 3D maps that will include branding (easy to find the nearest Starbucks or Citibank ATM, etc.) and realistic images (a certain building looks correct and to scale, etc.). This technology is ripe for advertising potential, which could be a benefit or could be really annoying, too.
 
According to Tele Atlas difficulties in mapping include wide roads (which can require several passes) and heavy traffic that can disrupt data flow.
 
They also have a network of 'spotters' that go around in regular cars and write down information about locations all day (imagine how boring that'd be - zip codes, store names, etc.).

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