Q+A: Justin Day, CARMERA
The idea of autonomous driving is incredibly exciting. Goodbye backseat drivers and the embarrassment of having to stop and ask for directions! However, if you stop and think about it, how exactly is a driverless car going to get from point A to B safely and successfully? How will the car know what route to take or if there are changes to the roads? The online maps that we use on an everyday basis don't always give us a full picture of what is happening on the roads, let alone provide the level of detail needed for self-driving vehicles.
Fortunately, CARMERA is a company leading the way and building high-definition maps for self-driving cars with data that is up-to-date and constant. We sat down with Justin Day, CTO and co-founder of CARMERA to talk about autonomy and its positive applications, what the company is currently working on and what he feels 2020 and the next decade will bring for AV.
What is the founding story behind CARMERA? What inspired or influenced you to explore this industry?
Sure! I’ve been a part of the New York tech scene for the last 15 years or so. I co-founded a company called blip.tv in 2005, which was an online video company that competed against YouTube and Vimeo, launching at the same time as those sites. We had a focus on web series and were eventually acquired by Disney. From there I moved to MakerBot, and I was there during their acquisition. After moving on from MakerBot, I decided to take a year off and take some time to myself. It was during this time that I met Ro, my co-founder and now the CEO of CARMERA. I liked his idea of building these fleet partnerships and symbiotic relationships that would allow us to collect really valuable map data that would allow us to create and maintain HD maps more quickly, accurately and efficiently. So I cut my year-off short and kickstarted CARMERA in a hackerspace here in Brooklyn, and that’s how we got started.
I love the idea of having these machines that can fill the gaps, solve real-world problems—I love being a part of that
People can be very skeptical of autonomous vehicles, why do you see this as a better option compared to human-driven cars?
Yeah, I mean I think autonomy has a lot of wonderful applications. For example, one of our customers, Voyage, has a robot taxi service for people in retirement communities where there are mobility needs that can’t otherwise be served. I love the idea of having these machines that can fill the gaps, solve real-world problems—I love being a part of that.
Since beginning in 2015 are there any highlights or memorable moments that stick out to you?
I think a memorable moment for me is when we first saw a vehicle driving on our data. It was really interesting to see this situation because it was at Michigan State University and they were attempting to pilot a vehicle through the snow using just our map data. The snow obstructed road markings, so the vehicle really had to just rely on our data—it was just amazing to see it work.
Are there any projects you can share that CARMERA is looking forward to working on this year?
Yes! The first one being our ongoing relationship with Voyage—we love working with them. They are very pragmatic in the way that they solve mobility needs and how they approach autonomous vehicles. Another project we are working on is with Toyota. We are working together to figure out how to do what we are doing on a much larger scale. 99% of the roads around the world have not been mapped at the level of detail that is required for AV, and so figuring out ways to do that is going to be super exciting to work on.
2020 is starting to feel like the year where AV becomes more concrete and real. People are trying to find real solutions rather than focusing on research and development.
The theme of this year's Annual Meeting is Futurists! How is CARMERA changing the game in the AV industry? What are you excited about seeing this space in the next decade?
2020 is starting to feel like the year where AV becomes more concrete and real. People are trying to find real solutions rather than focusing on research and development. It’s very exciting to be a part of that, and I am looking forward to leveraging what we have built to be a piece of that puzzle.
Your headquarters are here in Dumbo but you have multiple locations around the world. What brought you to Dumbo?
We love Brooklyn and we love Dumbo. There are lots of interesting mobility challenges around Dumbo—the roads here are very unique. New Lab is also around the corner and we love being associated with New Lab and the partnerships they foster.
What is your favorite spot in Dumbo?
For me restaurant wise, I love Taco Dumbo! I’m vegan and they have great vegan options.