Andrew Kouri and Erik Reed noticed something in the moment they were at Tesla, working on the self-driving system that the company is now fiercely promoting. These two engineers knew exactly what Tesla lacked and, taking that as an advantage, launched a startup called Lvl5.
This crowdsourced mapping company collects valuable mapping data via Uber drivers. The problem that motivates the Tesla engineers is that many of the autonomous vehicles that are in the works at the moment need a high-definition map. Andrew Kouri says that “high-definition maps are like “sheet music” for the self-driving cars.”
Future Vision in Today’s Minds
Tesla and other companies that pursue the future in acclaimed self-operating systems got to understand how important are these map-based improvements, considering how the cars rely on them. However, they are scarce.
“It came as a shock to me when I was in Tesla, that Tesla couldn’t find anyone to buy these maps from because one really makes them yet,” Kouri said.
Both Andrew and Erik, the co-founders of Lvl5, were ex-engineers in Elon Musk’s electric-cars company, Tesla. These two professionals were part of the company’s internal mapping team and after gathering enough knowledge and experience, they decided to use the Tesla model for the startup.
Approaching more into this dilemma, the maps not only have to be designed in high detail but they also need to cover a massive volume of land to make it work in perfect conditions.
With a logical purpose, Kouri designed Payver, an app that persuades Uber and Lyft drivers to snap pictures every meter driven for some extra money. The only thing these drivers need to do is to download the app and place their smartphones at the right angle.
Around 2,500 drivers have downloaded the app already and the startup has already mapped 500,000 miles across the U.S. The minds behind this project pay the drivers $0.02 for every mile registered and up to $0.05 when they take a new route.
This system tries to motivate these drivers to work in a more efficient environment and creates healthy competition. The Lvl5 team is also developing new ways to enhance further the way the company gathers valuable data.
Crowdsourcing and Funding
Lvl5 made its debut at this year’s Y Combinator, a program dedicated to accelerating promising start-ups. With the support of the previous seed accelerator and $2 million in funding, Lvl5 has achieved their first goal in funding for the creation project: high-definition maps of every route in the U.S.
Still, there’s no automaker signing up to use this improved mapping technology, although Kouri announced that one major automaker is testing it but he declines to name which company is. “If nobody has these global maps and nobody takes this crowdsourcing approach like we are, then you and I won’t be able to have self-driving cars take us from our door to work,” he said.