What does a company that helps realtors and investors make informed decisions about buying property have in common with autonomous vehicles?
Map Your Property (MYP) is a three-year-old Toronto-based real estate intelligence and mapping firm that provides professionals instant access to key regulatory information on a target property.
This one-stop shop platform can reduce staff time spent combing through regulations from one week down to three simple clicks. And it happens that flexible urban mapping is vital to the success of autonomous vehicle traffic.
That’s what brought MYP into the AVIN (Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network) Waterloo Ventures at Communitech program, the first cohort of which just wrapped up. Participating companies can receive up to $50,000 in funding and are given access to Communitech’s experts and coaches by pledging to match the funding at a 1:1.5 ratio. MYP Founder Devin Tu says AVIN’s mapping focus is what attracted his company: “In the Waterloo Region, we’re seeing a huge expansion on HD mapping across real estate, autonomous vehicles and other applications, like IoT and Smart Cities.”
Tu says the AVIN program was appealing because it had the flexibility to approach vehicular autonomy in different ways. Tu says there is currently a hurdle for autonomous vehicle high definition mapping: its cost. He suggested that the most precise approach is mobile Lidar, but he estimated that it costs $10,000 a kilometre to map a roadway with it. Knowing that the Province of Ontario maintains 16,900 kilometres of highway networks, “we’re looking at ways to be more effective in mapping.”
For example, he notes, rural areas likely will not need to be remapped as often as rapidly evolving urban areas. “We already had a lot of those processes working and so we saw the potential to be able to help Ontario with high definition mapping for autonomous vehicles, where you don’t have to map the entire province of Ontario. You only have to scan the areas that have high density or high change.”
What the MYP team developed, using Kitchener-Waterloo as its test site, was a scalable data automation program – an algorithm that can pull large datasets from multiple sources in minutes. One visual result is an urban change “heat map” that would allow autonomous vehicle HD mapping companies to identify targets for updated mapping. Tu says the new algorithm will help MYP achieve $500,000 in revenue this year, and $2.03 million next year.
Mauro Rossi, Director of Advanced Technology Platforms for Communitech, said MYP brought a different perspective to the AVIN Waterloo Ventures program: “They were using other sources of data to identify when a map provider needs to update their map. New construction occurs frequently, changing the city landscape. MYP is using alternate sources of data to find out where the hot spots are. They created a heat map – a really cool concept that we hadn’t really thought about.”
Rossi says that AVIN Waterloo Ventures, which has issued the call for the next cohort (the deadline is June 12) helps startups and scale-ups do some projects that might be out of their reach otherwise: “They don’t have those big R&D budgets that large organizations might have, so helping them along can really get them to where they can commercialize and meet a market need that they maybe wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.” For Rossi and Communitech there is also great satisfaction in watching the cohort members work their magic: “We’re really glad we have a front row seat to see how these companies are working with these different technologies.”
Tu says, “Our plans were for a limited project on a small city, but we ended up creating an algorithm that can be scaled and is being used for larger scale applications across the GTA. It has allowed us to conduct detailed analytics and scale into the U.S. market with a project already starting in California. So clearly there was huge value in a small grant, helping us accelerate MYP’s technology and innovation for scale. Without that grant, this scaling to market would not have been possible. The expectations were small with a higher outcome and deliverables.”
Tu recommends that companies in the mapping and autonomous vehicle space look at the AVIN Waterloo Ventures program. “I have already referred a few people to this AVIN program coming up … If you’re in transportation, AV or even high-definition mapping, I would take advantage of grants like this that are well-managed and it definitely helped us innovate and accelerate our technology. My recommendation is to ensure you can demonstrate how your tech can help autonomous vehicle innovation. You need that criteria, but you know, it’s been wonderful for us … Why not go for it?”
Applications for the next cohort are open!