Here be Dragons - New Blog post for DeepMap


I've been working as a paid advisor to DeepMap, which builds technology to allow self-driving teams and ADAS-Pilot systems to create the maps which allow them to work and get greater safety.

As part of that project, they have invited me to write some blog posts for them. The first, explaining just what high definitions maps are, how they came to be, and why they are valuable is now available to read.

The name "Here be Dragons" derives from the fact that old maps would sometimes say that to describe the unknown area beyond the map. This is where the interesting issues in mapping will lie. One of the dragons, though, is the question of conflict of interest.

I care about bias in my writing and conflicts of interest. Nonetheless I have put my own byline on this article because it reflects my views on maps, most of which I have expressed prior to having any financial interest. (The graphics and captions are added by DeepMap which naturally wants to inform people about its products.) Paid writing will never be 100% unbiased -- which is why it should always be disclosed -- but it can be 95% unbiased. I don't like maps because they compensate me, they compensate me because they want somebody who likes maps. The main bias comes from the fact that I am not likely to send them a post critical of their products, and arguably less likely even to do it on my own blog, though I work hard to not shy away from that. Even though I want to maintain a friendly relationship with Google/Waymo and Tesla (and even own a Tesla car) I have not shied away from criticizing the things they don't do right.


Are you allowed to keep writing for Forbes even though you're being paid by a company to write propaganda about the same topic?

What I am writing under my byline is my true view. There is a conflict of interest, which is of course clearly disclosed for people to judge for themselves. That is not what propaganda is, which hides its agenda.

I'm surprised that Forbes allows it.

Is not involved. Forbes requires its contributors to report any conflicts of interest in anything written about on the Forbes site, which I do. Even if they didn't require that, this is unrelated to anything written there.

And now you're being paid by an HD maps company.

And you have the correct order for the events, as well. I've also advocated for 1.5 decades about how robocars are great, and I've subsequently been paid by robocar developers. I've praised LIDARs and worked for a LIDAR company. I've praised delivery robots and minimobility and whistlecars and other things, and had clients building them. Pretty much always in that order. Unless you want to suggest the only reason I would write favourably about something is to get work from people making it, there is no conflict of interest. If you think I write for that reason, there would be no reason to read my writing. There can be conflict of interest when I write about something while I am earning money from providers of it, and if I change my opinion during such work one should be wary of conflict of interest. So I disclose it.

Most readers actually want to hear from people who have worked in a field, as long as they understand any conflicts of interest.

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