On any given day, there could be a half dozen autonomous cars mapping the same street corner in Silicon Valley.

These cars, each from a different company, are all doing the same thing: building high-definition street maps, which may eventually serve as an on-board navigation guide for driverless vehicles.

These companies converge where the law and weather are welcoming -- or where they can get the most attention. For example, a flock of mapping vehicles congregates every year in the vicinity of the CES technology trade show, a hot spot for self-driving feats. "There probably have been 50 companies that mapped Las Vegas simply to do a CES drive," said Chris McNally, an analyst with Evercore ISI. "It's such a waste of resources."

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