Ford Motor Company is pushing the development of their self-driving automobiles forward by putting money in a California startup company that uses data from Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) systems and cameras and converts it into 3D maps.

3D mapping company Civil Maps will receive US$ 6.6 million in seed funding from Ford and its partners Motus Ventures, Wicklow Capital, StartX Stanford and AME Cloud Ventures.

With 16 people in its employ, Civil Maps has developed artificial intelligence software that can take large chunks of data from LIDAR and cameras, and converts it into files with extremely small data footprint.

File size is of paramount importance because real-time and updated crowdsourced data from other autonomous vehicles must be easily downloaded over cellular networks in order for self-driving vehicles to operate safely.

"Autonomous vehicles require a totally new kind of map. Civil Maps' scalable map generation process enables fully autonomous vehicles to drive like humans do -- identifying on-road and off-road features even when they might be missing, deteriorated or hidden from view and letting a car know what it can expect along its route," said Civil Maps CEO Sravan Puttagunta in a statement.

It will be recalled that Ford recently invested US$ 182.2 million on cloud-based software company Pivotal in order to further its efforts as both an automotive and mobility company.