Softbank, Greylock Partners, GM and others invest in Silicon Valley self-driving startup Nauto

Nauto has had the distinction of attracting big names from the auto industry in its funding rounds.

Palo Alto-based Nauto, a Silicon Valley startup which develops software for self-driving vehicles, has disclosed it closed a $159 million series B funding round that was led by Japan’s Softbank Group and Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm.

General Motors Co was also among its notable investors in this funding round. Its involvement however has yet to be disclosed.

In its earlier funding round, its investors included Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp, as well as Germany-based BMW AG and Allianz, an insurance firm.

Nauto has had the distinction of attracting money from big-names from the auto industry. The startup focusses on software and data for self-driving vehicles.

“Any (vehicle) manufacturer is better than any startup at building cars,” said Stefan Heck, founder and chief executive officer of two-year-old Nauto.

He went on to add, “Our aim is to provide the data, intelligence and a cloud platform” to automakers that plan to begin putting self-driving cars on the market from 2020.

The Detroit automaker bought Silicon Valley startup Cruise Automation in early 2016 for more than $500 million.

Heck has declined to quantify Nauto’s post-funding valuation although he did drop a hint of it being just shy of $1 billion “unicorn” status.

“But we’re getting there,” he added.

By retrofitting windshields of commercial trucks from Japan, North America, and Europe with dual cameras, one aimed at the road and the other at the driver, Nauto is gathering data on driver distractions as well as on the environment around vehicles.

By using techniques, including computer vision and deep learning, Nauto is analyzing video feeds and data from the retrofit devices to improve driver performance and safety.

“During that transition period, we need autonomous vehicles that are not just smart, but are able to collaborate with humans,” said Heck in an interview.

Heck declined to state how many vehicles have been retrofitted with its cameras and software. Nauto has however said it expects to accumulate more than one billion miles of real-world data within 2018.

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Categories: Creativity, Entrepreneurship, HR & Organization, Strategy, Sustainability

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