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Ford invests in startup that makes maps for self-driving cars

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Ford Motor Co is among five investors providing US$6.6 million in seed funding for Civil Maps, a California startup that creates three-dimensional maps for autonomous cars.

[SOUTHFIELD, Michigan] Ford Motor Co is among five investors providing US$6.6 million in seed funding for Civil Maps, a California startup that creates three-dimensional maps for autonomous cars.

The other participants are Motus Ventures, Wicklow Capital, StartX Stanford and AME Cloud Ventures, a fund led by Yahoo! Inc co-founder Jerry Yang, Civil Maps said in a statement. The company, which has 16 full-time employees, is based in Albany, California, and grew out of an accelerator program sponsored by Stanford University.

The startup uses artificial-intelligence software to aggregate raw 3-D data from sensors on self-driving cars to create highly detailed maps used to direct autonomous vehicles.

Civil Maps said its format uses less data, reducing the cost of transmission over cellular networks. That lets the technology provide more real-time road data gathered through crowd-sourcing traffic information from other cars.

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"Autonomous vehicles require a totally new kind of map," Sravan Puttagunta, chief executive officer of Civil Maps, said in the statement.

Ford declined to say how much it contributed to the seed funding.

"Investing in and working with Civil Maps gives us an additional way to develop 3-D high-resolution maps, which will bring fully autonomous Ford vehicles a step closer for consumers," Alan Hall, a spokesman for the automaker, said in an e-mailed statement.

Ford has been making modest bets on technology partners as it researches self-driving cars and the sharing economy. In May, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker invested US$182.2 million to take a stake of about 6.6 per cent in Pivotal Software Inc, a cloud-computing company that helped it develop a mobility app.

Other automakers are also making similar moves. General Motors Co spent nearly US$1 billion acquiring self-driving software maker Cruise Automation and invested US$500 million for a 9 per cent stake in ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has teamed with Alphabet Inc's Google to develop 100 self-driving minivans.

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