Build Vs. Buy: HD Mapping for Autonomous Vehicles

April 28, 2023

HD maps provide autonomous vehicles with all the useful information like intersection width, traffic signal location, the height of a structure, the speed limit, etc. With inch-perfect accuracy and high environmental fidelity – HD Maps contain exact positions of pedestrian crossings, traffic lights/signs, barriers, and more. 

Every time a self-driving car enters a new city or a town, the sensor and lasers on it help draw a 3D visualization of the place. For example, distance is measured by the time the laser beam takes to go to the object and bounce back to the car sensor. Sensors can also categorize road features like intersections, driveways, signals, fire hydrants, etc. With cars driving autonomously, what sensors see in real-time is compared to the HD maps provided.

Hence, the development of autonomous vehicles relies heavily on the availability of high-definition (HD) maps that provide accurate and detailed information about the road network. The HD Maps market will reach USD 17 Billion by 2030 while growing at a CAGR of 31.7% from 2021- 2030.

However, creating and maintaining HD maps can be complex and resource-intensive for Autonomous Vehicle companies. Most of them find it challenging to decide whether to buy turnkey HD maps or get them custom-made. In this blog, we’ll cover key considerations when deciding whether to build or buy HD Maps.

Data Challenges of HD Mapping

Before we deep dive into the Buy Vs. Build for HD Maps, let us understand some of the data challenges of the market.

  • Data Availability: Geospatial data for HD maps are proprietary, and autonomous mobility companies cannot collect it. Even if they manage to do so with resources and technologies, quality loss is bound to happen. 
  • Regulations: Each country has its own rules and regulations for collecting and disseminating geospatial information, posing concerns for autonomous vehicle companies entering new markets.
  • Standardization: There is no standard data specification for HD mapping for autonomous vehicles, with manufacturers and HD map companies like TomTom, Nvidia, Here, and others having their proprietary forms.

Build Vs. Buy HD Maps: Key Factors to Consider

Whether you decide to build HD maps or buy them, the decision should bring real business value for you in the form of differentiation, market maturity, and market share. It’s important to prioritize your business requirements over features when deciding whether to build or buy HD maps or, for that matter, any other software. Let us look at some of the key considerations to keep in mind while making that choice:


Manual annotation for HD maps is not scalable, considering it will need many resources to deploy. With building HD maps, the annotators have to, maybe, label 25 types of dividers and 40 types of signs, which does take a lot of time to annotate accurately. If you buy turnkey HD maps, you will save a lot of time and money. However, the only challenge with this is the accuracy, as most turkey maps rely on AI tools for faster annotations. For safe self-driving technology, HD maps must be of the highest quality with almost nil error.

Accuracy and Edge Cases

HD maps must always be consistent with the road conditions and environment, as the autonomous vehicle will interpret scenarios based on them. Turnkey maps primarily rely on AI annotation tools for HD maps, which lack human judgment for edge cases. For example, a slightly different road sign can be misinterpreted in off-the-shelf HD maps, whereas human labelers would be able to annotate correctly. High-quality annotators are often crucial for developing and maintaining AI/ML algorithms. Hence, until we find a good balance of AI-assisted and human labeling, autonomous vehicle manufacturers must not compromise accuracy by choosing turnkey HD maps.


Building HD maps can be expensive, and Autonomous Vehicle companies should consider the costs of building a solution in-house versus purchasing turnkey maps from a third-party provider.


Autonomous Vehicle (AV) companies should consider their internal capabilities before buying a turnkey HD maps solution or building their in-house mapping solution. Companies with in-house AV mapping experts may have an advantage in the build option as they may have the necessary knowledge and skills to develop a custom solution tailored to their needs.

Regulatory compliance

HD mapping solutions must comply with various regulatory requirements, including privacy and data protection regulations. Autonomous Vehicle companies should consider whether a third-party solution meets their regulatory requirements or whether they need to invest in building a custom solution to ensure compliance.


Turnkey HD maps can be deployed faster than building HD maps in-house, helping Autonomous Vehicle companies reduce time-to-market.


At iMerit, our data experts in the Autonomous Vehicle domain work with some of the top autonomous vehicle companies. With our 10+ years of experience in HD mapping for self-driving technology, we have built custom workflows on various tools. We offer a flexible solution that allows you to develop and scale your custom HD maps from scratch while updating and maintaining them.

If you need high-quality HD mapping services for your Self-driving technology, here is how iMerit can help.