Carmera Scores Lear Partnership, Adds Ex-Waymo Exec to Advisory Team

The month of May was big for Carmera, a startup in New York City developing high-definition maps for use in autonomous vehicles. The company rolled out a new development partnership with auto supplier Lear, and it landed a big name advisor and investor with Shaun Stewart, the former chief business officer of self-driving technology business Waymo.

Carmera CEO Ro Gupta says both developments validate the company’s work in mapping and mobility. In order for self-driving cars to correctly navigate roadways, they’ll need constantly updating, accurate maps like those that Carmera is creating.

“One of the biggest challenges for us and even Waymo is high-definition mapping” that can be scaled to all road types and locations, Gupta explains, but detailed and extensive global mapping for AVs has not yet been done.

“There are unsolved problems in change management, especially for Level 4 and higher autonomous vehicles,” he says. (The Level 4 self-driving car milestone marks when the technology is good enough for vehicles to do most of the driving and monitoring of roadways.) “That’s where we’ve always been focused—being able to create Level 4-or-better-grade maps, which require rigorous detail and must be kept up to date. We can do it with cheap cameras, and that’s what’s different about our approach.”

Stewart, the current CEO of Brooklyn innovation hub New Lab, will help shepherd Carmera’s growth by contributing advice about business development, as well as technical and strategic tips. Gupta says that Stewart’s self-driving background stretches back to Waymo’s early days, while it was still a research endeavor known as Project Chauffeur at the Google X skunkworks lab.

Stewart says Carmera’s efforts to democratize access to HD mapping technology weighed heavily on his decision to come aboard.

“Over the course of my career I’ve seen firsthand why reliable HD mapping technology is critical to successful AV deployments,” Stewart said in a prepared statement. “The truth is, HD mapping is one of the hardest things for many companies to get right on their own. Carmera [provides] a best-in-class, vendor-agnostic solution, and that’s why I was so eager to join the team.”

Earlier this year, Carmera announced a mapping collaboration with Toyota Research Institute. Gupta says that project remains a major priority for the company as it embarks on a new partnership with Lear’s EXO Technology Partnership Program.

In 2017, Lear Acquired EXO Technology, an Israeli startup focused on highly accurate global satellite positioning in challenging weather and “urban canyon” environments, which Lear now plans to sell as a proprietary system. Carmera is the second EXO Technology partner—Hyundai was the first—and will work on testing and integrating EXO with its HD mapping and localization software.

Lear describes the EXO Technology Partnership Program as a collaborative effort between Lear, automakers, and other mobility ecosystem players that aims to provide an automotive-grade system to power Level 2/Level 3 autonomous driving and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) features.

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