Connected car startups raked in over $1 billion in funding last year, even though most consumers have yet to hear the term, connected car. With more than 1,700 autotech startups now in the game, competition is ramping up at all levels of the automotive IoT ecosystem. From automotive cyber security solutions providers to connected head-up display companies, new autotechs are coming online almost daily.
Growth and sustainability of the connected car market demands a symbiotic relationship between automakers and 3rd-party tech providers.Without major automakers, there is no market for autotech products. Without innovation from independant tech companies, industry growth will stagnate.
With 250 million connected vehicles projected to be on the road by 2020, there’s plenty of opportunity for automakers, and for the connected car startup. We have put together a list of top connected car startups to watch in the year ahead. While our list is in no way complete, it is representative of the emerging autotech startups that will help shape the future of the automobile.
1. Arugus Cyber Security
Named among the Top 25 Technology Companies to Watch, according to the Wall Street Journal, is Argus Cyber Security. Argus provides cyber security solutions for OEMs and their Tier 1 suppliers, connected fleet operators, and aftermarket providers of connectivity services.
The Argus product line provides bumper-to-bump protection against hacking for commercial vehicles. By securing the following systems, Argus products help to keep data in, and hackers out:
- Infotainment systems
- Telematics units
- In-vehicle networks
- Individual Electronic Control Units (ECU)
- Aftermarket devices
Argus also provides situational awareness of vehicle’s cyber health throughout the vehicle’s lifespan.
Argus’ proven ability to provide effective end-to-end cyber automotive security solutions has earned it multiple industry awards, already. With R&D labs in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and offices in Michigan, Silicon Valley, Stuttgart and Tokyo, Argus is quickly establishing itself as a global player, and one worth keeping an eye on.
Autotalks is a chip maker specializing in V2X communications, or communications between the vehicle and any IoT “thing” within the connected car ecosystem. The ‘X’ can include other cars, traffic monitoring systems, automakers, home automation systems, cloud-based entertainment and infotainment services, and a growing list of other connected products and services.
Although Autotalks has been around since 2008, $40 million in Series D funding in June makes this startup one to watch. The latest round of cash infusion came from the Mirai Creation Investment Fund, which funds ventures with the promise of leading growth for future generations.
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The new funding will enable Autotalks to expand its manufacturing capacity in preparation for mass production. With newly-opened offices in Japan and South Korea, Autotalks is positioning itself brilliantly to become a global player.
Autotalks offers four basic chips for connected and autonomous vehicles:
- CRATON (ATK4100) V2X Communication Processor (for connected vehicles)
- CRATON2 V2X Communication Processor (for truly autonomous vehicles)
- SECTON V2X hardware add-on solution
- PLUTON (ATK3100) V2X RF Transceiver
Software Development Kits (SDKs) are available to enable OEMs to incorporate Autotalk V2X chip solutions into their vehicles. It is very likely that most of them will.
American startup, CloudCar, raised $26.5 million from a single investor to build its cloud-based platform, which provides connected car solutions to OEMs.
By incorporating machine learning into their platform, the tech startup hopes to bridge the gap between busy drivers and the connected services they want and need. Ultimately, CloudCar expects to make thousands of apps available to drivers through voice command. The focus is on helping OEMs provide a personalized and distraction-free driving experience for their customers.
And Jaguar Land Rover believes they can do just that. In an impressive move for a young company, CloudCar secured a $15 million investment from U.K. auto giant Jaguar. Not only has Jaguar spotted CloudCar some much-needed cash, but they have announced that they will adopt CloudCar’s cloud service for its first all-electric vehicle, the Jaguar I-Pace. The Jaguar-branded platform will be called justDrive.
Here are some other reasons that CloudCar bears watching:
- The platform uses Natural Language Processing (NLP), which gives driver voice command over apps using natural speech
- CloudCar also offers OEMs a software development kit (SDK), which allows them to develop branded solutions using the proprietary service
- The cloud service automatically maintains the most-current versions of apps, so drivers and OEMs can focus on other things
Although CloudCar is still working to build its portfolio of OEM partnerships, the company’s focus on making connected services intuitive and non-distracting is promising. In fact, that is a standard all connected car technologies should aim for.
Convoy is hard at work automating freight brokerage and dispatch operations. Yes, brokers and dispatchers, you should be worried.
By integrating mobile apps, real-time GPS tracking, proprietary algorithms, and predictive analytics technology, this startup aims to improve the efficiency of freight transportation through automation.
Having secured $80 million in investments, its wheels are well-lubed for the road ahead. Investors include the Y Combinator Continuity Fund, Bill Gates, Dara Khosrowshahi of Expedia, Mosaic Ventures, former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, and Marc Benioff of Salesforce.
Among the advantages shippers enjoy from using Convoy’s services include:
- Optimized routes
- Transparent pricing
- Improved efficiency
- Preference-based job
Recognized as Geekwire’s 2017 “Startup of the Year,” Convoy is off to a good start. As autonomous trucks take to the road, Convoy’s future is sure to turn even brighter.
Drive.ai is just one of many startups endeavoring to equip fully-autonomous cars with the brains they need to drive themselves. Founded by Carol Reiley and Sameep Tandon, along with a team of six other engineers, Drive.ai is also not the first autotech startup to be launched by college mates turned entrepreneurs. What makes this startup unique lies deep inside its software algorithms — something called “deep learning.”
While most software designed to power self-driving cars relies on programmed rules to drive the vehicle, deep learning enables Drive.ai to write software that thinks like the human brain thinks, which does not always follow the rules. And deep learning technology is not just used to help the vehicle maneuver through traffic, but Drive.ai also uses it to control how the software communicates with onboard IoT sensors and systems. If ever there was a technology that could make a car think, this is it.
Deep learning offers some meaningful advantages over non-AI programming technologies, namely:
- The ability to learn and improve system performance over time
- The ability to learn drivers’ behavior and to adjust accordingly
- Intelligent route planning that can adopt to changes in traffic patterns
- Intelligent responses to unusual traffic threats and situations
Drive.ai combines its advanced software with off-the-shelf hardware into a retrofit kit, designed to target commercial fleets. The retrokit turns human-driven vehicles into autonomous vehicles, saving managers the expense of buying new autonomous fleets.
By using artificial intelligence, Reiley and Tandon hope to empower autonomous vehicles to respond better to real-world situations encountered on the road.
With more than $50 million in funding, Drive.ai is both well positioned to be the “brains” behind the connected vehicle of tomorrow.
Israeli startup, Karamba, brings a highly-focused approach to connected car cyber security. Rather than detecting intrusions across multiple surfaces, as with a corporate network security solution, Karamba is security designed specifically for the connected vehicle. Karamba’s product, Autonomous Security, is installed in the vehicle’s ECU and guards the factory settings from unauthorized changes.
Autonomous Security protects the ECU, infotainment system, gateway, and other crucial systems that can be compromised by a breach of the ECU.
Karamba is funded by the following impressive list of investors:
- Paladin Capital Group
- Presidio Ventures
- Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures
- Fontinalis Partners
- YL Ventures
Investments to date amount to $17 million, and the company will use some of that to establish an office in Michigan, where most major U.S. automakers are located.
The Navdy head-up display is not your average HUD. And that is just what Navdy intended. The augmented reality navigation display offers a wide range of useful features and applications for making driving safer, while keeping the driver connected and informed.
Navdy connects to the driver’s phone through a downloadable app. Using an advanced HUD display, the device projects data from phone apps onto the windshield, keeping the driver’s eyes off their phone and on the road.
Using an accelerometer and a gyrometer, Navdy can augment GPS tracking to provide pin-point location data for your vehicle. Its array of sensors empowers off-line maps to keep you on track, even when you have lost GPS coverage.
The driver interacts with Navdy through simple hand swipes, and using a handy thumb
wheel that mounts on the steering wheel.
Among the many interactive features offered by the Navdy HUD include the following:
- GPS mapping
- Text messages
- Phone calls
- Music selection
- Interaction with telematics and infotainment systems
After raising $26 million in funding, Navdy should be well-positioned to capture their share of the HUD market. With units already for sell through BestBuy, you could say they are well on their way.
Nuro.ai is a startup in stealth, so we might not have included it except for the notability of its founders: Jiajun Zhu and Dave Ferguson. Both Zhu and Ferguson were top executives on Google’s self-driving car project. That, alone, makes it a startup that is worth watching.
Not much is known about the Nuro.ai product line, but the company website indicates open positions for 14 engineers of various disciplines, and 5 executives.
Insider information, and job descriptions posted on the company website, offer the following tidbits:
- The company’s ambition is to create a fully-autonomous vehicle
- Other products brewing in the back labs of Nuro.ai include products that are not necessarily automotive in nature
- Product technologies will include machine learning, mobile apps, automotive technology, and robotics mapping and control
- The company’s diverse team of engineers bring to the table experience in robotics, cameras, Mars rovers, Google Street View, medical devices, and the Helios solar and fuel-cell-powered unmanned aerial vehicle
Finally, roomers indicate that Nuro.ai plans to launch a fully-autonomous vehicle within a 2-4 year time frame.
Rarely, does so little information raise such excitement, but this is one startup we can either choose to watch, or choose to be surprised by them.
Another Israeli-based startup, Otonomo, raised $15 million in funding to develop its cloud platform for Saas connected car services.
The Otonomo cloud-based platform facilitates intelligent data exchange between automakers, service providers, and app developers, while focusing on data privacy and security. Essentially, the platform is a marketplace where data collected from connected cars is packaged and sold to 3rd-party service providers, generating revenue streams for OEMs.
Otonomo boast the following features:
- Multi-layered Security
- Simplified Data Access
- Data Anonymization
- Rich & Intuitive API
- Real-time Policy Enforcement Engine
- Data Normalization
- White-label Owners’ Consent App
- Auditing & Billing
Otonomo is funded by Bessemer Venture Partners, Delphi, Stageone Ventures, Maniv Mobility, Local Globe, and Hearst Ventures.
Connected cars can send upwards of 25 gigabytes of data into the cloud every hour. Making dollars and sense (pun intended) from it all requires powerful cloud solutions such as Otonomo provides. For that reason, we think they are worth watching.
Zendrive sought to solve one problem, and ended up avoiding another. But more on that in moment.
Zendrive targets fleet companies and insurers with driver behavior analysis data. What makes this startup different from similar ones is how it captures data. Rather than interfacing with vehicle telematics systems, Zendrive relies on mobile devices to capture the data it needs to analyze driver behavior. Buy capturing and analyzing how the driver accelerates, brakes, turns, and performs other activities while driving, Zendrive can provide insightful feedback to improve driver safety. That data can be provided to the driver, to their fleet manager, or to the insurer.
Zendrive’s advanced cloud and mobile technologies accomplish three simple tasks:
- Data Capture
- Pattern Analysis
- Driver Coaching
Working with one of its investors, BMW, Zendrive perfected one of its most valuable features — collision detection and reporting. The Automatic Collision Detection feature detects a collision, and reports it to a call center or to emergency contacts.
By providing highly-detailed data on driver behavior, Zendrive can significantly improve driver and vehicle safety, which was their first objective. Using smartphones as sensors solves an equally challenging problem — keeping connected vehicles safe from cyber attack. While Zendrive does not offer cyber security protection, its lack of interaction with vehicle systems means there is one less portal hackers could use to take over control of the vehicle. And that’s a great problem to avoid.
With help from BMW and other investors, Zendrive raised $13.5 million in Series A funding.
Any startup worth BMW as a partner is worth watching.
Connected vehicle technology and the Internet of Things promises a new world of opportunity for innovation and investment. As connected cars become the norm, and autonomous driving becomes a marketable reality, the need for connected products and services will outpace supply.
That’s where Ignite comes in.
We are world-class experts at developing cutting-edge automotive technology and mobile apps. We have helped companies around the globe to bring their automotive or mobile app products to market, and we stand ready to help you shape the connected car revolution. Whether your verticals include mobile apps for connected car, cloud-based services, or autonomous vehicle technology, we want to be your technology partner. With six R&D labs across Western Europe, we are well-positioned to serve your outsource development needs, no matter where you are located.
Why not contact us today for a no-cost consultation?