Mapbox ties up with Microsoft, Intel and ARM to provide maps for self-driving cars

Mapping start-up Mapbox has tied up with Microsoft, Intel and Softbank Group’s ARM Holdings chip unit to provide maps for self-driving cars, Reuters reported.
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Mapbox does not make mapping app itself. It competes against Alphabet Inc’s Google Maps and HERE Technologies to provide the underlying maps inside of other apps. Mapbox maps are found in Snap Inc’s messaging app and the Instacart grocery delivery app.

Washington, D.C.-founded start-up, which has raised about $228 million from Softbank’s Vision Fund, DFJ Growth and others, is pushing into providing tools for software developers who are making the software for self-driving cars.

“Our main focus has been in making maps for humans. But maps for self-driving cars are read by the cars’ computers and need more detailed data,” Mapbox CEO Eric Gundersen said.

Mapbox announced partnerships designed to make its technology more useful for self-driving cars at an event it held for software developers in San Francisco on Wednesday.

One of Mapbox’s products is software that lets either a mobile phone or a car’s computer see the road as the car drives, picking out things like lanes or speed-limit signs. The company said it will weave that software together with an offering from Microsoft.

The combination will let drivers in the car see real-time events like speed limit changes but then split off some of the camera data and send it to Microsoft’s cloud computer service, Azure. Once there, the data can be processed later by powerful servers to help improve the algorithms that help self-driving cars navigate.

Mapbox is working with chipmaker ARM to optimize its self-driving vision software so features detected by ARM’s chips can be recognized as lanes, pedestrians and road signs even faster. ARM’s chips power the majority of mobile phones, tablets and other mobile computers that are making their way into cars.

Mapbox is pairing with Intel’s Mobileye self-driving unit, which the chipmaker purchased last year for $15.3 billion.

Mobileye is building its own detailed database of road features that is stored in the cloud. Mapbox has built software that will live in cars to beam down Mobileye’s data without hogging up mobile data bandwidth.