BMW i Ventures Announces Strategic Investment in Mapillary
BMW i Ventures, the venture capital arm of BMW, has announced a $15 million investment in Sweden-based mapping company Mapillary, a leading street-level imagery platform for extracting map data using computer vision technology.
"There is a growing need for an independent provider of street-level imagery and map data, which also acts as a sharing platform among different players," says Uwe Higgen, Managing Partner of BMW i Ventures. "Data sharing is crucial to maintaining accurate maps and to the development of safe autonomous vehicles. Mapillary has made great progress and built technology that will let everyone update maps in a scalable way."
Mapillary provides a platform that ensures the continued updating of street-level maps in high definition. The startup crowdsources its map images to provide a real-time view of streets with object identification.
Users can upload Images from any device, including a smartphone camera. These images are then combined into a 3D visualization of the world to generate data needed for improving high-definition maps, city planning and maps for autonomous driving. In contrast to Google Maps' proprietary setup Street View, Mapillary's tools enable anyone to collect, share, and use street-level images.
Once the photos are uploaded to Mapillary's platform, computer vision extracts data from the photo, recognizing traffic signs, trees, and other infrastructure and estimating their locations.
For every single photo uploaded, Mapillary automatically matches features to the ones in photos from the same geographic vicinity so that can compute how the images relate to each other and how to navigate from one to the other. This is how users navigate between photos in the Mapillary app and web browser.
Mapillary creates map data by detecting and labeling objects within the images. User are able to extract specific map features such as traffic signs, and object labels such as pavement, guardrails, utility poles, etc. The technology extracts these map features automatically.
Mapillary maintains the world's largest street-level imagery dataset at 260 million images, shared and used by individuals, companies, cities, governments across the globe. Anyone can contribute images captured with any camera.
The platform uses computer vision to connect the images and automatically extract map data, making this sensor-agnostic approach a scalable way to generate the data to updates HD maps.
Example of a Mapillary photo that has been digitized to train autonomous vehicles
Mapillary's notable commercial customers include Volkswagen, mapping giant HERE, a HD mapping consortium owned by German automakers, Audi, BMW and Daimler.
The scale of Mapillary's operations has grown to serve over 22 billion map objects to an increasing number of organizations and customers in mapping, cities and the automotive industry.
"With everything that's happening around autonomous driving, we know the need for a collaborative, device-agnostic, and map-agnostic platform will be steadily growing," says Jan Erik Solem, CEO and co-founder of Mapillary. "While the application of Mapillary for automotive use might be new, the underlying idea is the same since our first day: sharing data so that everyone wins. Our new investors will help us navigate this rapidly changing automotive market, and bring expertise in distributing map data that will help us realize Mapillary's global potential."
The $15 million investment round was led by BMW i Ventures, with participation by Samsung Catalyst Fund and NavInfo together with existing investors. The new capital will be used to continue growing the team, the core technology, and the infrastructure.
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