Real-time mapping startup Carmera has raised a $20 million Series B round led by Google Ventures, the company announced today.
The new round will fund Carmera's latest expansion into Japan and South Korea and facilitate expanding partnerships with professional fleets, research institutions, autonomous drive technology developers and mobility-as-a-service companies.
"A lot of the car companies want to know that a new supplier can actually scale globally," said Ro Gupta, Carmera founder and CEO. "Our customers all have real production and commercial deployment with real scale in mind, so it's important that we are equipped for the long term and that we can achieve continental scale."
Carmera's expansion into Asia builds on deployments in New York, California, Florida, and Michigan. The latest move overseas brings Carmera to the island of Jeju, South Korea, where it is partnering with the South Korean automotive supplier conglomerate Nexen Tech to map the tourist destination and electric-vehicle hub ahead of the rollout of a future mobility service.
"From a deployment standpoint, the U.S. and Asia are still where most of the activity is happening," Gupta said.
Those deployments are driving Carmera's growth faster than Gupta had expected.
"Autonomous vehicles had always been our North Star," he said, but the company wasn't sure when it would have a product ready to sell. "It became abundantly clear over the last year that there was a ton of pent-up demand for a high quality HD mapping service that weren't glorified point clouds. We quickly realized we had to focus all our efforts on that."
Carmera provides real-time fleet monitoring through its free camera-based connected hardware, which in turn builds its real-time map product. The underlying software architecture that manages the map updates has been improved, so that the maps more rapidly reflect changes (like road construction, wrecks, etc.) taking place in the real world. These maps are used by public agencies like the New York City Department of Transportation, autonomous vehicle developers like Voyage, researchers at facilities like MCity and mobility service ecosystem providers like Renovo.
"It's not enough just to give a customer a 3D point cloud with some labels and boxes around things," Gupta said. "That doesn't actually save them work. You have to be able to annotate every navigation critical attribute, down to such minute details as which traffic light lens controls which lane of traffic. The real challenge is doing that in a scalable, cost-effective way in a complex environment."