SELF-DRIVING Cars May Be Here SOONER Than You Think…
Commuter space travel, brain-machine interfaces, medical microrobots – all examples of extremely cool, yet far-off technologies that will change the lives of generations to come.
A future where cars drive themselves, however, may come much sooner than you think.
Nauto, a Silicon Valley-based automotive tech startup founded in April 2015 by Stefan Heck, is accelerating the transition to a world where autonomous vehicles rule the roads while also encouraging safer driving today.
Computer Vision, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence…On Your Windshield
Through the use of a dual-facing camera that fits retroactively onto existing cars, Nauto is able to collect information on drivers and their environments in real-time. The external-facing camera assesses road and safety conditions while the internal camera observes driver behaviors.
A combination of computer-vision algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence makes it possible for the camera to not only capture footage, but also assess what that footage means within the context of a drive.
The Nauto team is particularly focused on tracking driver ABCs – Acceleration, Braking, and Cornering – and studying the circumstances around collisions. The internal facing camera is even able to identify when a driver is distracted which continues to be a problem today with increasing smartphone usage.
The data points collected by Nauto’s cameras are uploaded to a cloud-based system that now holds millions of miles of driving information across highways and urban streets.
The KEY to Nauto’s Success: Short-term AND Long-term Value Across Several Spaces
Nauto’s primary customers today include fleet managers and auto insurance companies who can use the information in the cloud-based system to better understand driver safety and effectively assign risk. Individual drivers are scored on their Attentiveness and Smoothness behind the wheel which is then aggregated by a proprietary scoring system, VERA (Vision Enhanced Risk Assessment), and used to provide a single risk rating for an entire fleet.
Beyond the scoring, Nauto has made it easy for fleet managers to take actionable steps towards reducing habitual dangerous driving. In the event of a collision, Nauto’s camera sends a 30-second clip up to the cloud for later review, 20 seconds of pre-accident footage and 10 seconds post-accident footage, so that the full context of the event can be studied and future collisions can be prevented.
Customers pay several hundred dollars up front for Nauto’s camera and then a monthly service fee in the range of $25-$100 for access to the cloud-based system.
Many also see Nauto as an important contributor to real-time autonomous vehicle R&D.
“In the future, driving will be a networked activity, with tighter feedback loops and a much greater ability to aggregate, analyze, and redistribute knowledge,” said Reid Hoffman of Nauto’s board.
“Nauto is accelerating the transition from a human-driver dominant world to a safer, more efficient autonomous-driving era.”
With information from Nauto, autonomous vehicle manufacturers are able to refine their models with greater precision and build self-driving cars that act more closely to the best human drivers on the roads today.
Nauto’s Expansion Due to BIG Funding and Strategic Partnerships
Over the last year, Nauto has expanded rapidly following a $159M Series B funding round last July led by Greylock Partners and Softbank Group. Other participants in the funding round included BMW i Ventures, General Motors Ventures, and Toyota AI Ventures who all recognize Nauto’s valuable role in helping shape the next generation of vehicles. The funding has been used primarily to improve the company’s signature camera device and expand global operations with a focus on Japan and Europe.
Nauto has also formed strategic partnerships within the automotive industry in order to get more of its cameras into cars already on the road today. BMW and Toyota have agreed to use the dual-facing cameras in their test vehicles. Additionally, European insurer, Allianz, licensed Nauto’s technology to ensure drivers are insured more fairly.
Nauto is in the Business of Selling Product AND Information
It is no secret that innovation powerhouses like Tesla and Uber are working to make self-driving cars a reality. But even with the smartest minds and unlimited resources at their disposal, they can still learn from a smaller player, like Nauto, who has carved out a niche offering within the larger pursuit of autonomous driving technology.
This Untold Business story goes to show how a company can quickly become an indispensable player in a space through the creation of information that is valuable to many, both over the short-term and long-term. In your entrepreneurial pursuits, look beyond the immediate value of your product and think about how you might be able to sell the information your product generates. Nauto was able to monetize both its camera and the information it captures – how might you be able to replicate this strategy with YOUR venture?
June 10, 2018| By Chris Fruci- Untold Business Writer