Skip to main content

Ford's latest tech investment is in an autonomous vehicle mapping firm

As the race towards autonomous production vehicles heats up, it seems like we hear of a technology startup acquisition by a major automaker each week. Keeping with the trend, Ford has announced a major investment in a self-driving startup called Civil Maps. This particular business uses computer maps to create an infrastructure for fully autonomous vehicles to plug in and safely navigate to or from a destination.

While automakers have already invested resources in technology within self-driving cars, or the tangentially related operation of vehicle sharing, this is among the first investments in the broader facilitation of autonomous infrastructure.

Using data crowdsourced, processed, and transmitted by Civil Maps, fully autonomous vehicles could identify on-road and off-road features, understand what they mean, and notice when they change, allowing them to react like human drivers (when they aren’t playing Pokémon Go).

Read More: Watch Ford’s Autonomous Fusion Drive At Night Without Headlights

Civil Maps differentiates itself further by shrinking the data needed to build multidimensional, highly precise maps to guide self-driving cars via A.I. (artificial intelligence) programming. Presently, this type of mapping necessitates thousands of human hours and can take as much as six months to complete. Civil Maps says it can do the same task faster and more accurately.

In addition to its mapping technology, the company plans to accelerate production development and deployment with several automakers and tech co-developers. “By creating and managing live semantic maps of all the roads in America, the company is providing a technology essential for the leap to fully autonomous vehicles that can transform the future of transportation,” said Jim DiSanto, managing director of Motus Ventures.

Ford isn’t the only backer of Civil Maps’ $6.6 million seed round. Motus Ventures, Wicklow Capital, StarX Standford, and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures all joined in the funding.

Though leading automakers are approaching autonomous driving from all angles, expect their investments to start meeting in the middle as we approach target vehicle production dates in the late 2020s and early 2030s.

Editors' Recommendations

Miles Branman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Miles Branman doesn't need sustenance; he needs cars. While the gearhead gene wasn't strong in his own family, Miles…
Watch Ford testing its next-gen driver-assist tech on a mega road trip
watch ford testing its new driver assist tech on road trip bluecruise

Introducing BlueCruise: Hands-Free Highway Driving | Ford

Ford took its next-generation driver-assist technology on a North American road trip that covered more than 100,000 miles.

Read more
Apple Car will be fully autonomous with no driver input, insiders claim
apple ios developer academy logo

The ongoing “Apple Car” saga took another turn on Wednesday when a new report claimed the expected electric vehicle (EV) will be fully autonomous and designed to operate without the need of a driver.

“These will be autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile,” an unnamed source with knowledge of Apple’s plans told CNBC.

Read more
CES 2021 and cars: What we expect in autonomous cars, EVs, and more
Sony Vision-S Concept Car

The automotive world has been turned on its ear in recent years, as the greatest car shows of the world dimmed beside and ultimately vanished into the penumbra of CES. CES has truly taken over the world of transportation: The world’s greatest gadget show has become one of the world’s biggest car shows, where dozens of car builders and accessory makers come to show off their latest wares.

In years past at CES, we’ve driven self-driving cars and tractors, been wowed by futuristic autonomous busses, and seen some of the biggest tech companies dip a tentative toe into the automotive world – I’m looking at you, Sony. What should we expect from CES 2021? Here are a few educated guesses at what to watch out for.
Autonomous cars galore
In years past, we’ve tested autonomous car tech from any number of companies. Last year I cruised around Vegas in a custom Lincoln MKZ, powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon Ride, a handful of chips and a software stack that can fit into a box no bigger than your backpack and can tie together the cameras, communication systems, and navigation needed for autonomy. In 2018 we rode in an Aptiv-powered Lyft, which we found the best kind of boring.

Read more