After Conquering Detroit Auto Show, Carmera to Expand Mapping Service

At the North American International Auto Show, which just wrapped in Detroit, New York-based Carmera won best in show at the startup competition hosted by AutoMobili-D, and also received startup of the year honors in the autonomous driving category from the state’s PlanetM program. Not bad for a company that just exited stealth mode a few months ago.

Founded in 2015, Carmera says it has created a “street-level intelligence platform” that includes real-time mapping data pulled from fleet vehicles that Carmera partners with. The 15-person company’s headquarters is in New York City and it has a second office in Seattle.

“One reason we started in New York is because it’s hard to build maps there, but it’s more critical to have maps in dense areas,” Carmera CEO Ro Gupta explains. “The incumbent companies in the industry didn’t have much [mapping] depth, so we decided to tackle it first.” Gupta believes the company is taking a more holistic approach than many of its competitors.

The company’s flagship product is a crowdsourced, high-definition, real-time map, which helps autonomous vehicles know where they are on Earth—Gupta says that’s no small feat in dense, urban environments—and with path planning, which allows the vehicles to know what to expect in advance. Carmera also provides site intelligence data for managers of “built environments” (corporate campuses or residential communities, for example) as well as fleet monitoring services, which is how the company gets the bulk of its mapping data.

“It’s a risk and cost management tool for [fleet managers], and we get a high coverage and refresh rate to keep our maps up to date,” Gupta says. “From a cost and scalability perspective, we’re able to keep maps living in real time without deploying our own vehicles. We don’t have to pay them [for mapping data] because they’re getting a telematics monitoring service in exchange.”

Gupta says Carmera’s primary competition is existing automotive mapping companies, but says his team is “pretty open about what we’re good at and what we’re not good at” in a mobility sector with a lot of gaps and opportunities. The company is also working to build relationships with driverless car manufacturers in metro Detroit and may establish a formal office in Michigan at a later date, he adds.

Carmera has raised just under $6.5 million in venture funding over the life of the company; investors include Resolute Ventures, Notation Capital, Matrix Partners, New York University, the University of Washington, and MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis.

In 2018, Gupta says Carmera plans to expand regionally as well as outside the U.S. Earlier this month, it announced an autonomous taxi partnership with Voyage at The Villages, a massive retirement community in central Florida. As part of the project, Carmera will map The Villages’ 750 miles of road and generate continuous updates of “localization and navigation-critical data” that Voyage’s driverless cars will use to get around on the fly.

Gupta says Carmera has stuff in the works with “big auto players,” but declined to share details. “I don’t know when we’re announcing it, but we have some exciting projects coming up,” he says.

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