SX Startups: Ushr Maps Autonomous Cars

The Forrest Four-Cast: February 10, 2018

For the 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event in Austin, 50 diverse startups have earned the opportunity to wow a panel of industry experts. Half will pitch on Saturday, March 10, and the remaining 25 will pitch on Sunday, March 11. Winners in 10 categories will be honored at the Accelerator Award Ceremony at 7 pm Sunday, March 11, at the Hilton Austin. The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event takes place within the Startup & Tech Sectors track of programming.

A finalist in the Transportation Technology category, Ushr will make its case at 9:30 am Saturday, March 10, in the Hilton Austin’s Salon AB (also connect with them at the SXSW Accelerator Demo Day on March 12). This software and technology company offers high-definition mapping data and software to autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle manufacturers. Ushr has the most accurate, comprehensive and advanced high-definition mapping technology in production today. Based in America’s Motor City (Detroit), this startup’s technology is critical for safe vehicle operation and is transforming the transportation industry.

For this interview, we spoke with Brian Radloff, who serves as VP of Business Development at USHR.

What is USHR’s competitive advantage?
We’re a high-tech startup, but we’re based in Detroit, at the heart of the automotive industry, so we have a deep understanding of the length of design cycles and other factors unique to the industry. We’re also the first to market a HD map in a production vehicle (the 2018 Cadillac CT6 featuring Super Cruise™) and have mapped more than 200,000 miles of roadway to under 10 centimeters’ level of absolute accuracy. We are the only company that interprets maps and communicates them to the vehicle control system. Our in-vehicle software solutions reduce cost and implementation complexity for automotive OEM customers.

What would outsiders be surprised to learn about the Detroit startup scene?
The Detroit startup scene is vibrant and growing quickly. Detroit is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, and entrepreneurs and startups are leading the way. Of course, automotive and transportation sectors are big, but there is also a nice blend of media, music and connected mobility startups. Throughout its history, Detroit has been an innovation and artistic hub — from Henry Ford and Motown to startups like Ushr and artists like Eminem, Detroit is poised to influence both business and culture for years to come.

What does Ushr hope to accomplish in 2018?
We’re looking to continue working with major automotive OEM companies and supplier partners to integrate our cutting edge software and map technology into future products, as well as to open up new partnerships and avenues for applying our HD mapping technology to all ends of the autonomous spectrum. We will also begin putting together a Series B round this year as well.
 
Which SXSW 2018 sessions most excite your team?
There are some really exciting sessions planned in the automotive space, particularly around autonomous vehicles. Some sessions on our radar include: Who Takes the Wheel on Self-Driving Car Safety?,” “The Emotional Life of Your Autonomous Car,”Humanizing Autonomy,” and Brian Lent of HERE’s “Your Car Has X-Ray Vision.”
 

What are Ushr’s goals for SXSW 2018?
Ushr was in stealth for three years before we officially launched last year, so one of our big goals for SXSW is simply to continue building brand awareness and letting folks know who we are and what our technology has to offer. Of course, we’re also looking forward to starting and/or continuing conversations with potential customers, investors, media, analysts and other key players in our industry. We’re also just looking forward to learning and soaking up all the excitement (and tacos) that SXSW has to offer.
 
How long has the Ushr team been together?
Several members of the core Ushr team have been mapping engineering structures, power lines, railways and roadways for more than 20 years. In 2013, we decided to apply that experience and knowledge base to autonomous driving technology.

If your team members weren’t involved in building Ushr, what would they be doing?
Our team would be working with autonomous vehicle technologies and finding new ways to apply AI and Machine Learning to tackle the challenges of autonomous mobility. Transforming the current transportation and personal mobility challenges of the next century is in the DNA of all Ushr employees.

What podcasts are your team listening to now and why?
We love the the New York Times’ The Daily. Also, RadioLab, Planet Money, and TED Radio Hour are on our daily rotation. As well as 99% Invisible, Reply All, Song Exploder, Criminal, Lore, and, when feeling nostalgic, reruns of Car Talk.

What do you enjoy most about the startup experience?
Every day we wake up looking forward to the challenges ahead. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our technology, our work streams/processes, improve our marketing, etc. It’s exciting and dynamic. Knowing that at the end of the day, we are enabling the next generation of transportation technologies, making driving safer and more accessible makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Look for interviews with other SXSW Accelerator finalists in this space between now and March. Startups already profiled as part of this series include 70MillionJobs, ARwall, Bluefield, Cambridge Cancer Genomics, Commutifi, DashTag, FanFood, Goalsetter, HealthTensor, Instreamatic, Leaf, Pawame, PolyPort, Sceenic, Switchboard, and UPGRADED.

Or, click here to browse the full lineup of startups for SXSW Accelerator 2018.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.