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Civil Maps

The race to build self-driving cars is on, and companies from major automakers to Google are rushing to cobble together sensors and teach cars how to drive on roads. Silicon Valley startup Civil Maps, in which Ford recently invested, is focused on a crucial layer: detailed three-dimensional maps that are constantly updated.

Accelerating tech: Civil Maps has built a kit, including a hardware unit with sensors and software for capturing and processing mapping data. It's now making that kit available to outside companies and teams working on self-driving cars as a starting point. These companies can then provide mapping data while they use the units for their own testing, while getting access to Civil Maps' constantly updating maps.

The company says that such collaboration will be crucial to self-driving cars because "we need a unified view of the world and a very precise view of the world," research VP Fabien Chraim told Axios.

Large automakers and other companies have been using Civil Maps' technology since last fall, and though the company declined to name them, it said they include many of the top names in the world. The company also has arrangements with ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, which are also working on autonomous driving, though it declined to share details about those relationships.

A self-driving car future: Chraim says that self-driving cars are fast on their way, though that doesn't mean they'll replace our cars tomorrow. Much more testing and developing still remains to be done. He's also not sure that consumers will own those cars. At the very least, car ownership won't look entirely like it does today, especially in urban environments.

What's next: By next fall, the company hopes to significantly bring down the cost of its hardware units, which currently run for $15,000 to $20,000. Down the road, it also wants to make its technology available to consumers so that anyone can attach a unit to their car.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
3 hours ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

3 hours ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.