Self updating map

As I wended my way through the side streets, I avoided a double-parked armored car and steered around construction sites.

Though it might have seemed like an aimless outing, my brief sortie was anything but.

The company has created a femur-sized plastic device called the S1, which has multiple cameras and sensors that goes over one’s dashboard and a single cable connecting it to the cigarette lighter for power. “It cost 0 to make, it’s composed of commodity parts, and it is designed so it can be easily installed in any car,” says Naikal.

After installation, the Mapper app directs the driver to a predetermined route and tells him or her how quickly to go.

The device is made by a San Francisco-based startup called Mapper, which comes out of stealth today after a year of development.

The company’s maps don’t resemble the classic gas station fold-outs, or even the ones made by Google or Apple that have supplanted them.

Mapper’s chief product officer, Jonathan Glanz, estimates that when the company scales up, it will be able to maintain its base map with about 10 thousand mappers—far fewer than Uber’s hundreds of thousands.

Mapper’s founders are Ph D engineers who have participated in DARPA challenges and created an indoor mapping startup, Flyby Media (bought by Apple), and the company believes it can match lidar-quality results by relying on sophisticated modeling and data-compression techniques that allow it to use over-the-counter parts to snare data.

Once Mapper develops its base map, it can make money not only from the autonomous car manufacturers but also from other customers who might make use of the world’s most detailed guide to roadways: utilities maintaining infrastructure, insurance companies looking for hazards, and, perhaps most intriguing of all, augmented reality ventures that might want to transform your road trip with a stream of personalized billboards.

(As for privacy issues, Mapper says that it’s not going to collect information like license numbers or house addresses, though its customers may well do so on proprietary layers they develop on top of the Mapper base map.)“We feel that there might be use cases that we aren't even aware of,” says Naikal.

Think of the work as an alternative to driving for Uber and Lyft, without having to deal with customer ratings or backseat outbursts from Travis Kalanick.

The key to Mapper’s scheme is that it can create high-definition 3D maps without using lidar.

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