Toyota acquires HD Mapping and AI specialist CARMERA

  • July 20, 2021
  • William Payne

Toyota has acquired US spatial AI company CARMERA, which develops road intelligence for automated mobility.

CARMERA will become part of Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet Holdings. The company will be incorporated into the Automated Mapping Platform (AMP) effort within Woven Alpha, Toyota’s advanced projects incubator operating within Woven Planet.

AMP is a software platform for crowd-sourcing high definition mapping and road intelligence from connected vehicles.

An earlier partnership between Woven Planet — under its predecessor organisation Toyota Research institute – Advanced Development, Inc. — and CARMERA in Tokyo, Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, laid the groundwork for this deal. Woven Planet and CARMERA participated in collaborative projects in 2018, 2019 and 2020, which proved the companies can develop and update HD maps from commodity, device-agnostic sources, such as commercially available dashboard-mounted cameras.

The CARMERA acquisition is the second major deal for Woven Planet in North America. In April 2021, the company acquired Level 5, the self-driving division of Lyft.

The Woven Alpha team plans to develop AMP into a global road and lane network HD map platform with high-precision localisation support for automated vehicles. 

Toyota expects the acquisition of CARMERA to accelerate AMP’s shift from the R&D stage to the next phase of commercialisation by bolstering the platform’s engineering team with experts in the development of HD maps. 

Acquiring CARMERA will provide Toyota with access to the company’s map update, change management and IoT sensing technology.

Toyota aims to exploit CARMERA’s technology for updating HD maps from crowd-sourced, camera-based inputs—a cheaper and faster approach than traditional methods. Toyota believes this will strengthen AMP’s ability to serve a comprehensive set of road classes and features, reflecting changes in lane markings, traffic signals, signs and more in near real-time, and support its future multi-regional commercial launch.

CARMERA will join Woven Planet Group as a wholly-owned subsidiary, expanding the company’s footprint beyond its Tokyo headquarters by adding New York and Seattle offices to its planned offices in Silicon Valley and London.

Mandali Khalesi, Vice President of Automated Driving Strategy and Mapping, Woven Planet, said: “AMP has been a key project of Woven Planet since its foundation, helping support its vision of ‘Mobility to Love, Safety to Live.’ We’ve been progressing steadily in bringing safe automated mobility to the passenger and commercial vehicle segments, such as our recent announcements with Isuzu Motors Limited and Hino Motors, Ltd., and with Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation. I’m really excited to welcome CARMERA to Woven Planet. With CARMERA joining the team, we’ll be able to hit the accelerator. CARMERA’s software stack, which is focused on real-time HD map changes and proprietary hardware custom-tailored to crowd-sourcing, is an ideal complement to AMP’s mapping efforts. In addition, their world-class experts will allow us to bring forward the execution of key strategic milestones and jump-start operations in the United States.”

Ro Gupta, CEO and Co-founder, CARMERA, said: “Woven Planet and AMP have been highly aligned with CARMERA’s culture and mission from the beginning. Our teams have a common view of the unmet need for ubiquity in advanced mobility data going forward, including maps. Woven Planet, thanks to its software-first automotive DNA, shares our commitment to the end-user—to creating a technology stack that can be used safely and without friction by all stakeholders from data originators through to data consumers. This validates and furthers our founding thesis that richer, faster spatial intelligence is both critical to the next generation of ‘Mobility for All’ and viable at global-production scale. I’m beyond excited for CARMERA to join the Woven Planet organisation, as it continues to strengthen its footprint in North America and ramp up its software-first development of mobility innovations.”