Third manufacturer invests in US autonomous software company

20 July 2017

20 July 2017

Autonomous vehicle software company Nauto has closed its Series B funding round, attracting General Motors (GM) to its growing list of investors, which already includes two other vehicle manufacturers.  

The company develops software, including cloud platforms, for autonomous vehicles, a component of the technology that costs less to produce than the related hardware. However, the company has received investment in the past from BMW, Toyota and German insurance company Allianz, with the latest round bringing in GM and Japan’s Softbank Group.  

Nauto is a Palo Alto, California, based transportation technology company developing an AI-powered data platform to make driving safer and fleets smarter. Nauto states its intelligent vehicle hardware saves lives by preventing collisions, improving driver behaviour and learning from the diverse data shared across its network.  

Using such techniques as computer vision and deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence, the company is analysing video feeds and data from the retrofit of windshields on trucks with dual cameras, one aimed at the road and the other trained on the driver, to improve performance and safety. This allows their software to see how drivers react in certain situations, which will then let autonomous cars learn how humans act on the road, to predict what a driver may do around the driverless vehicle.  

Learning more about how human drivers behave is critical, according to the company, because self-driving cars must share the roads with those vehicles for at least the next 20 to 30 years. 

Stefan Heck, founder and CEO of the two-year-old company, comments: ′Any [vehicle] manufacturer is better than any startup at building cars. Therefore, our aim is to provide the data, intelligence and a cloud platform to automakers that plan to begin putting self-driving cars on the road from 2020.’ 

The funds from the $159 million (€138 million) financing round will fuel Nauto’s growth and the deployment of its retrofit safety and networking system into more vehicles around the globe. The interest of three major vehicle manufacturers, based in the US, Europe and Asia, is expected to push the software company’s value close to $1 billion (€870 million). 

Speaking about the investment, Heck continues: ′The new investors, along with our key strategic partners, are turbo-charging Nauto’s ability to make roads safer today and to create an on ramp to autonomy for the near future. At a time when traffic fatalities are climbing and distracted driving causes more than half of all crashes, we’re tackling that problem by putting Nauto’s safety features into more commercial fleet vehicles ″” from trucks and vans to buses and passenger cars ″” to warn drivers and coach them on how to stay focused. And, in pursuit of the profoundly transformational impact autonomous vehicle technology can have on business and society, we’ll now more rapidly be able to gather the billions more miles of real driving experience and data required to get a precise understanding of how the best drivers behave behind the wheel.’