Ford invests in mapping startup for self-driving cars – USA TODAY
Ford is among five investors putting $6.6 million into a California startup that generates three-dimensional maps to help guide self-driving cars.
Civil Maps, which was founded in 2014, uses artificial intelligence to convert data obtained from a car’s sensors into map information for use in autonomous vehicles. The company had raised almost $3 million before today’s announcement. The latest investment will be used for product development and deployment of the technology.
In addition to Ford, investors include Motus Ventures, Wicklow Capital, StartX Stanford and AME Cloud Ventures.
The 16-employee company is based in Albany, Calif., just north of Berkeley.
“Autonomous vehicles require a totally new kind of map,” said Civil Maps CEO Sravan Puttagunta. “Civil Maps’ scalable map generation process enables fully autonomous vehicles to drive like humans do — identifying on-road and off-road features even when they might be missing, deteriorated or hidden from view and letting a car know what it can expect along its route.”
In March, Ford created a limited liability corporation called Smart Mobility to invest and develop new mobility services. Smart Mobility is led by former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett.
Ford and four other venture capital funds are investing $6.6 million in Albany, Calif. startup Civil Maps that develops 3-D maps that help guide self-driving vehicles. (Photo: Civil Maps photo)
“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,” said Ford spokesman Alan Hall in an e-mail statement.
Before this Ford has made small investments in other ventures working on autonomous vehicle technology. In May, the automaker put $182.2 million for a 6.6% equity stake in Pivotal Software, a cloud-computing company that helped it develop a mobility app.
In a much larger investment General Motors recently acquired autonomous car startup Cruise Automation for more than $1 billion. BMW has formed a partnership with Intel and Mobileye to produce fully autonomous cars by 2021.
GM also has invested $500 million in ride-sharing company Lyft in exchange for a 9% stake.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has partnered with Alphabet Inc.’s Google to develop 100 autonomous minivans.
Toyota hired Google’s head of robotics to lead its own in-house artificial intelligence research and has creased its own research institute staffed by robotics experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and the University of Michigan.