Autonomous vehicle technology company Nauto (earlier post) closed 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 funds will fuel 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.
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.
While building an increasingly intelligent telematics business, Nauto is also generating a highly valuable dataset for autonomous driving, at massive scale. 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.—SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son
Greylock’s Reid Hoffman and SoftBank’s Shu Nyatta will take board seats at Nauto, joining existing members including Nauto’s Stefan Heck, automotive industry veteran Karen C. Francis (Ford, GM) and Bruce Leak of Playground Global.
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 sophisticated safety and networking features. The Nauto 2 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.
Because Nauto learns from other drivers, the road and conditions around vehicles in the Nauto network, fleets equipped with Nauto 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).
Nauto was co-founded in 2015 by CEO Stefan Heck, Ph.D., a Stanford Consulting Professor and former McKinsey & Company senior partner, and CTO Frederick Soo Ph.D., a neuroscientist-turned hardware engineer and entrepreneur.