American automobile giant Ford has teamed with four other investors to fund 3D-mapping startup Civil Maps. Civil Maps is a California based firm that makes three-dimensional maps for autonomous vehicles. The amount is discussed to be USD 6.6 million in seed funding. The other investors are Motus Ventures, StartX Stanford, Wicklow Capital, and AME Cloud Ventures. AME Cloud Venture is led by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang. This investment brings Mustang maker one step closer to putting autonomous vehicles on the road.
Civil Maps has 16 full-time employees and is based in Albany, California. It grew out of an accelerator program sponsored by Stanford University. It uses artificial intelligence (A.I.) and local vehicle-based processing to convert data obtained from a car’s sensors into “meaningful map information” for use in autonomous vehicles. The startup creates detailed maps that are used to direct self-driving cars. The company claims its light data footprint reduces the cost of transmitting information over cellular networks. It also updates and shares road data in real time.
“We are investing in Civil Maps, a 3D mapping company, as part of our expansion to be both an auto and a mobility company,” Ford spokesman Alan Hall said in an email. “Investing in and working with Civil Maps gives us an additional way to develop 3D high-resolution maps, which will bring fully autonomous Ford vehicles a step closer to reality for consumers.”
Ford is collaborating with various technology partners on autonomous vehicles. Earlier this year, Ford invested $182 million in Pivotal, a software company that could hasten the development of connected vehicles, and created a subsidiary, Ford Smart Mobility. Ford did not reveal how much it contributed to the seed funding.
There has been a huge upsurge in investment across the autonomous car sector. This year only General Motors (GM) acquired self-driving car startup Cruise Automation for over $1 billion, while BMW announced a partnership with Intel and Mobileye to produce fully autonomous cars by 2021. Japanese giant car maker, Toyota, even went one step ahead and poached Google’s head of robotics to lead its own in-house A.I. and set up a research lab to explore autonomous vehicles.