Automakers are hedging their bets when it comes to self-driving. They all have development programs in-house, but most of them have also invested in startups.
Now GM, BMW and Toyota are all investing in the same “self-driving startup”, Nauto.
Not unlike lvl5, the new startup launched by former Tesla engineers that we reported on this morning, Nauto’s technology is based on a dashcam, but it’s a two-way system that also monitors the driver, which is believed to be an important part of autonomous driving for level 3 and 4.
Level 5 autonomous driving shouldn’t require any input or attention from a driver, but level 3 and 4 would require a transition period between conditions in which the autonomous driving can and cannot drive. A certain level of attention would be required at that point, which is why people in the industry believe that driver-facing cameras would be needed.
Their dashcam (pictured above) can recognize the driver and it monitors their gaze in order to know if they are paying attention. They also can detect dangerous moments and evaluate the driver’s reaction.
Right now, it offers regular dashcam functionalities and fleet management services, but in the future, Nauto wants to use its data to accelerate the deployment of safe autonomous driving systems using its computer vision technology.
And now it looks like a lot of investors, including several automakers as previously mentioned, are on board.
They announced today the close of a $159 million Series B financing round, led by a subsidiary of SoftBank Group Corp. and Greylock Partners. Other participants include previous strategic investors BMW iVentures, General Motors Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures and the venture unit of global financial services and insurance provider Allianz Group, and Series A investors Playground Global and Draper Nexus.
The company says that they will be using the money to deploy more Nauto units:
“As more Nauto units get deployed and Nauto-enabled vehicles accumulate more miles, the Nauto network becomes more precise, gains an even greater understanding of human driving behavior and provides more valuable data and safety features. The resulting insights help improve fleet safety and operations, as well as save lives and reduce liability and expenses. Over time the Nauto data platform will inform the transition to and co-existence of human-driven and autonomous vehicles.”
This new $159 million financing round is a big score for a company created just 2 years ago and it shows just how quickly things are moving in the autonomous driving space.