DeepMap + Accel
Today we announced Accel is leading a $25m Series A in DeepMap, a company developing mapping technology for the autonomous driving era.
Etak isn’t a household name you’d know, but they were pioneers in mapping. Founded in nearby Menlo Park, Calif., they’d built one of the first car-based navigation systems, complete with analog display, a tiny bit of internal memory, and a cassette deck to load your route (a map of a single city needed four tapes!). In these pre-GPS days, Etak’s system relied on what was called “dead reckoning”, an old method for positioning that gauged how far you’d driven and which direction you’d gone — to help loosely plot where you were on the screen. This was the early 1980s; what sounds raw and immature was in fact hugely novel at the time. Etak’s work would inspire the turn-by-turn navigation services we now take for granted.
Needless to say, car navigation has made major strides since then. And new technology over the horizon suggests we’re priming for our biggest leap yet. Major forces are at play in areas like computer vision, cameras, LiDAR, machine learning and AI that make autonomous vehicles a reality. Tomorrow’s cars will be wrapped in sensors and fixed with powerful computers — they won’t lack for data and processing power. But meeting the bar for safe, autonomous navigation requires cars to have an “at runtime” understanding of their physical world. Self-driving cars will run on high-definition maps, real-time 3D models that help dynamically decode a car’s surroundings. Without HD maps, cars can’t intuit road closures, pedestrians in the street, lowered railroad crossings or other last second changes in the drive path. It’s critical technology to get right, if we’re ever to fully take our hands off the wheel.
DeepMap is building a full-stack mapping service, solving some pressing technical issues along the way. How live traffic data is collected, expressed, rendered and transmitted — pose some deeply complex, if not dizzying challenges. Building real-time models with centimeter-level precision is a serious hurdle. But we think DeepMap is fast on their way to defining an important standard for this nascent space, one that all manufacturers and ride-sharing services will look to.
Many have staked their claim on the self-driving car movement, but few have the nuanced insight to tackle this important layer. DeepMap is a fiercely talented and ambitious team of mapping veterans. They’re pioneers in their own right — having built some of the most popular consumer and enterprise mapping products in the world. We’re excited to be here at the start, helping build an important company that will serve this ecosystem and beyond.