General Motors Co has joined a long list of investors in a new Silicon Valley startup called Nauto, which is developing software for self-driving vehicles.
Palo Alto, California-based Nauto said this week that it closed a new funding round, led by Japan’s Softbank and venture capital firm Greylock Partners. It also has attracted financial support from companies such as BMW and Toyota Motor Corp, as well as the German insurance firm Allianz.
Automakers have been scouring the tech world both in the U.S. and abroad for partners with technology that could potentially be used on self-drive vehicles. They have been willing to invest significant sums in new ventures targeting the development of autonomous vehicles to keep pace with new entries into the automotive field such as Tesla and Google/Alphabet.
“Any (vehicle) manufacturer is better than any startup at building cars,” said Stefan Heck, founder and chief executive officer of two-year-old Nauto. “Our aim is to provide the data, intelligence and a cloud platform” to automakers that plan to begin putting self-driving cars on the road from 2020.
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The amount of GM’s investment in Nauto was not disclosed. Not long ago, the Detroit automaker bought Silicon Valley-based Cruise Automation in early 2016 for more than $500 million. Prior to that it invested more than that into Lyft.
Nauto is retrofitting windshields of commercial trucks from North America to Europe and Japan with dual cameras: one aimed at the road and the other at the driver. The goal is to gather data on driver distraction and on the environment around vehicles and speed development of self-driving technology.
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Using such techniques as computer vision and artificial intelligence, the company is analyzing video feeds and data from the retrofit devices to improve driver performance and safety. Heck said learning more about how humans drive is vital because self-driving cars must share the roads with those vehicles for at least the next 20 to 30 years.
“During that transition period, we need autonomous vehicles that are not just smart, but are able to collaborate with humans,” Heck told Reuters news service.
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Heck did not say how many vehicles are using Nauto’s cameras and software, but said the company expects to accumulate more than one billion miles of real-world data within the next year.