Ford is one of five big-name investors that put $6.6-million into a new CA startup company that focuses on creating 3D mapping to help guide the burgeoning self-driving car market. Civil Maps is the name of the company that was founded in 2014 and has just 16 employees who focus on technology and vehicle markets.
It uses AI to convert sensor-collected data into map-based information for use in self-directing cars. Prior to this injection, Civil Maps raised $3-million of their own capital. New money gained will be used for deployment of new technology and continued product development. Other investors in the $6.6-million package were Wicklow Capital, AME Cloud Ventures, StartX Stanford and Motus Ventures.
Civil Maps CEO Stravan Puttagunta confirmed that self-driving vehicles require a new and innovative kind of map for direction. The technologies being developed by the company will allow autonomous vehicles mirrors what humans do when they direct a vehicle. This includes identification of off-road and on-road driving features, even when they aren’t in clear view of the system’s data sensing mechanisms.
Investing in and developing Civil Maps will allow Ford to push for developing 3D high-resolutions mapping systems. It is these systems that will then lay the foundation for the company’s self-driving vehicles. Ford spokesperson Alan Hall stated that the investment to Civil Maps brings the car manufacturing giant one step closer to bringing new technologies to the consumer market.
Prior to this big-dollar investment, Ford was already known to be toying with investing in self-directing vehicle technology. Earlier this year the company earmarked $182.2-million for a 6.6% equity-share of Pivotal Software, a cloud-based computing company that develops mobile apps targeted at autonomous vehicles and their development.
Other big name players in the automotive market have ventured into this technology too. GM recently purchased an autonomous car start-up called Cruise Automation for just over $1-billion. BMW has teamed up with Mobileye and with Intel to produce a completely autonomous line of vehicles targeted for 2021 release. Both Fiat Chrysler and GM invested $500-million each in Lyft for a total 9% equity stake in the company. Its signs like these that are telling of where big-name vehicle manufacturing companies are headed. They see the changes in the market and developments possible, and want in from the ground floor.
Toyota also made news by hiring Google’s head of robotics to direct their own in-house AI technology team. It also has developed its own research institute focused on robotics experts from the University of Michigan, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Self-directing vehicles are definitely a focus of major car manufacturers that are investing big-dollars in development. Expect to see the vehicles rolled out to the market in coming years as technology takes over the automotive market altogether.