With $159M autonomous vehicle firm Nauto plans to curb distracted driving

This funding will help Nauto expand its its automotive data platform to more commercial vehicles, trucks, buses, vans, and passenger cars

Nauto

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Nauto, the autonomous vehicle technology company which makes artificial intelligence-powered system and data platform for fleet safety and self-driving technology, has closed a $159 million Series B investment round. The funding round was led by a subsidiary of SoftBank Group and Greylock Partners. The round saw participation from previous strategic investors BMW iVentures, General Motors Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures and Allianz Group, as well as its Series A investors Playground Global and Draper Nexus.

According to the company, the funds will be used for Nauto’s growth and the deployment of its retrofit safety and networking system into more vehicles around the globe, as well as support the expansion of the Nauto data platform in autonomous vehicle research and development across multiple automakers. In April last year, Nauto had raised $12 million led by Playground Global and Draper Nexus.

Nauto is an automotive data platform, powered by artificial intelligence and an after-market dual-camera device, which can equip any vehicle or fleet with safety and networking features. The system also includes a new windshield mounted hardware design, updated deep learning and computer vision algorithms and smart cloud network informed by the accumulation of more than a million miles on urban streets and highways.

The system combines AI with cameras inside the vehicle to detect movement on the roads in font of the driver and inside the car. The system alerts drivers when there is a irregular activity and a problem ahead, or a dangerous distraction inside the car, to help avoid collisions.

The company claims that its network will become more precise and gain further insight into human driving behavior, as more units get deployed and vehicles accumulate more miles. The resulting insights will eventually help improve fleet safety and operations, as well as save lives and reduce liability and expenses. Over time the company expects its data platform to inform the transition to and co-existence of human-driven and autonomous vehicles.

“SoftBank and Greylock, along with our key strategic partners, are turbo-charging Nauto’s ability to make roads safer today and to create an onramp 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,” said Stefan Heck, Founder and CEO, Nauto.

“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.”

Greylock’s Hoffman and SoftBank’s Shu Nyatta will be joining the board at Nauto, joining existing members including Heck, automotive industry veteran Karen C Francis from Ford and GM and Bruce Leak of Playground Global.

“While building an increasingly intelligent telematics business, Nauto is also generating a highly valuable dataset for autonomous driving, at massive scale,” said Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO, Softbank Group.

“This data will help accelerate the development and adoption of safe, effective self-driving technology. We believe in Nauto’s potential to revolutionize the automotive sector and look forward to enabling their success.”

The system states that it learns from other drivers, the road and conditions around vehicles in the network. Fleets that have been equipped with the system can automatically capture and upload video of significant events and insights in real time to help fleet managers improve overall driver performance and enhance the safety and efficiency of an entire fleet.

Nauto’s scoring system, called VERA (Vision Enhanced Risk Assessment) includes a risk rating for the frequency and severity of distraction events. For example, a distraction event while stopped at a red light would not generate the same high risk score as a distraction event that occurred at 65 mph speed on a freeway.

“In the future, driving will be a networked activity, with tighter feedback loops and a much greater ability to aggregate, analyze, and redistribute knowledge. By building a network of vehicles and drivers, Nauto is accelerating the transition from a human-driver dominant world to a safer, more efficient autonomous-driving era,” said Greylock partner and Nauto board member, Reid Hoffman, Partner, Greylock.

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