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Ford pumps cash into company creating maps for self-driving cars

Civil Maps uses 3D data to create highly detailed maps for autonomous vehicles, and Ford wants in on the action.

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Dearborn's on a bit of a spending spree, but it's still cheaper than trying to do all this by itself.

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Knowing that the road ahead is best forged with teamwork, automakers are throwing serious money behind tech startups with an interest in self-driving cars. Ford is already deeply involved with these sorts of investments, but its portfolio is growing once again with an investment in a company building maps for self-driving cars.

Civil Maps' goal is to create a set of high definition maps that self-driving cars can use to navigate. The company takes data from Lidar and cameras and translates it into a format cars can understand. It prides itself on having a small data footprint, making it easier to transmit data to and from vehicles.

"Autonomous vehicles require a totally new kind of map," said Civil Maps CEO Sravan Puttagunta in a statement. "Civil Maps' scalable map generation process enables fully autonomous vehicles to drive like humans do -- identifying on-road and off-road features even when they might be missing, deteriorated or hidden from view and letting a car know what it can expect along its route."

The company received $6.6 million in seed funding from Ford and five other investors. Civil Maps isn't a large company, with just 16 employees on the payroll. Ford's other recent work with startups includes a $182.2 million investment in software company Pivotal, and its Ford Fusion sedan is the basis for an autonomous test car Uber has deployed in Pennsylvania.