Mapbox to open office in Minsk focused on AI and auto

US-headquartered Mapbox, the developer mapping and location platform has a new office and team in the High Tech Park in Minsk, Belarus. 

The team in Minsk will be dedicated to supporting deep learning, computer vision and self-driving vehicles to complement the company's larger investments in autonomous driving and growing presence within the automotive industry.

"Navigation apps have not innovated in years," said Eric Gundersen, CEO of Mapbox. "Drivers are looking at 2D maps on their phones like the old school atlas our parents had — we can do so much better.  Front-facing cameras and navigation displays need to merge. Drivers should see an augmented reality, with directions showing up in front of where they need to turn. Phones will be the heads-up displays of the future without the need for expensive hardware."

During the past few years, Minsk has been growing as an innovation hub, based on low costs and a good skills base and Mapbox has been successfully working with developers in the city for the past 18 months, it says. Measures of corruption show that the country has improved significantly in recent years, making it more attractive to outside firms.

"The President of Belarus is expanding benefits for the members of the High Tech Park area in Minsk and making it easier for companies to set up shop," said Denis Alienkov, Alienkov & Partners, who has been supporting Mapbox's activities in Minsk. 

Mapbox was initially introduced to Minsk by Yury Melnichek, the founder of Maps.me and lead investor AIMatters, who currently serves as an advisor to Mapbox. Melnichek saw potential in Mapbox's technology, not only for the automotive industry, but for the growth of Minsk as well.

"The combination of technical talent and a really dedicated work ethic is going to drive a lot of startups here. I believe this is an ecosystem that is important for Mapbox to be a part of," said Melnichek.