Today, CARMERA is coming out of stealth and announcing their Series A, led by Hardi Meybaum of Matrix Partners. You can read more about the announcement on their blog as well as Erin Griffith’s writeup on Fortune. It marks an important milestone for the founders Ro Gupta and Justin Day and the rest of this amazing team, and almost two years of hard work to get to this point.
CARMERA’s mission is to automate urban mobility and make cities work better by maintaining the world’s most robust real-time, street-level intelligence platform, accessible to anyone. The company is announcing two products today — Autonomous Map provides real-time 3D maps and navigation-critical data for autonomous vehicles, and Site Intelligence provides 3D reconstruction and site analytics data, on-demand. I realize that’s a mouthful, so I’ll unpack that a bit and explain why we’ve been so excited about this company (it’s our largest investment to date).
We first met Ro in 2014 through Jake Levine, one of our part-time partners at Notation. Ro was coming off a 6 year stint as head of business development at Disqus, and had been tinkering nights and weekends with a home brewed road intelligence product installed on his own car. Shortly afterwards, Ro moved into our first office with us on top of Threes Brewing in Brooklyn, and as he continued to explore the intersection of 3D mapping data and autonomous vehicles, we all became increasingly excited about the emerging opportunity.
The problem can be simply stated: Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) need HD maps; but the available data isn’t yet accurate, fresh, and cheap enough at scale. The solution, until just recently, has been impossible.
So how can a little startup in NYC accomplish such a challenging technical feat (particularly when up against giants like Google and Apple and Tesla)?
The first key to the puzzle is in data collection. Ro and the team have built a unique 3D system of sensors, in fact not all that far off from the original installation on his car, except they’ve convinced others to do the actual collection — mainly fleet managers, such as Makespace and others who do high coverage routes everyday, in cities all over the country. CARMERA provides professional vehicle fleets with access to real-time telematics and video monitoring for minimal incremental cost, all the while aggregating a deeply rich real-time mapping data set (at very low cost).
The second key to the challenge is in data processing. CARMERA now collects terabytes of data, but making this data actually useful is no easy feat. So today, CARMERA is releasing their first product — Site Intelligence (for select initial partners) — which uses computer vision analysis on CARMERA’s unique data set to provide customers in the real-estate industry with real-time (remote) street level surveying. The company is also giving early access to the CARMERA API to select partners, with the goal of eventually making this data open and accessible to everyone.
CARMERA is the first significant AV startup to launch here in NYC, and Ro, Justin and team are assembling an incredible group of deeply technical and ambitious people to tackle this huge challenge and opportunity. We’re grateful to have played a small part in their journey to date, and we’re psyched to see what the CARMERA team and their developer community hacks together in the months and years to come.