mirandakatz writes: If we want self-driving cars to become mainstream, we need maps -- and not just any maps. We need ridiculously detailed and constantly updated maps of the world's roads. And there's a mad race among startups to become the definitive provider of those maps. At Backchannel, Steven Levy takes a deep look at Mapper, a startup that just came out of stealth today and that hopes to become that definitive provider by crowdsourcing the production of those maps, paying drivers to drive around with a special mapping device on their windshields. As Levy writes, "Mapper's solution is to create an army of part-time workers to gather data that will accrue to a huge "base map" for autonomous cars, and to update the map to keep it current. Think of the work as an alternative to driving for Uber and Lyft, without having to deal with customer ratings or backseat outbursts from Travis Kalanick."