For those of us who live in places where driving directions are available at our fingertips, it might be surprising to learn that millions of miles of roads around the world have yet to be mapped. For more than 10 years, volunteers with the OpenStreetMap (OSM) project have worked to address that gap by meticulously adding data on the ground and reviewing public satellite images by hand and annotating features like roads, highways, and bridges. It’s a painstaking manual task. But, thanks to AI, there is now an easier way to cover more areas in less time.
With assistance from Map With AI (a new service that Facebook AI researchers and engineers created) a team of Facebook mappers has recently cataloged all the missing roads in Thailand and more than 90 percent of missing roads in Indonesia. Map With AI enabled them to map more than 300,000 miles of roads in Thailand in only 18 months, going from a road network that covered 280,000 miles before they began to 600,000 miles after. Doing it the traditional way — without AI — would have taken another three to five years, estimates Xiaoming Gao, a Facebook research scientist who helped lead the project.
“We were really excited about this achievement because it has proven Map With AI works at a large scale,” Gao says.
Starting today, anyone will be able to use the Map With AI service, which includes access to AI-generated road mappings in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, with more countries rolling out over time. As part of Map With AI, Facebook is releasing our AI-powered mapping tool, called RapiD, to the OSM community. RapiD is an enhanced version of the popular OSM editing tool iD. RapiD is designed to make adding and editing roads quick and simple for anyone to use; it also includes data integrity checks to ensure that new map edits are consistent and accurate. You can find out more about RapiD at mapwith.ai.