Funding for ‘Human-Like’ Driving
An MIT spin-off company, which has developed more than a dozen autonomous vehicle prototypes that have been tested in the USA, Singapore, and Europe, has secured investment that will allow it to further develop its ‘human-like’ self-driving technologies. nuTonomy Inc., developer of advanced software for autonomous vehicles, has announced it has closed a US$3.6m seed funding round, with investments from Signal Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Fontinalis Partners, and Dr Steven LaValle, former chief scientist of Oculus VR. The funding will help support nuTonomy’s continued work in the USA, as well as in Singapore, where industry and government are jointly piloting autonomous vehicle technology. The company’s software is currently being integrated and tested by automotive partners in both the USA and Europe, with the goal of deploying self-driving features within the next few years.
nuTonomy’s founders have been researching and creating autonomous vehicle technology since 2005. The MIT-based visionaries behind the company, Drs Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli, have developed robotic technology with funding from NASA and DARPA, and two have already built and tested dozens of autonomous vehicle prototypes over the past decade. Frazzoli previously directed the first open-to-the-public pilot of on-demand automated vehicles, which took place in Singapore in 2014, and enabled more than 500 citizens to experience an Uber-like service to request driverless transportation throughout the Jurong Lake Gardens, a central public park. That experience, led by SMART (Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology), enabled the team to prove the demand for autonomous vehicle technology in Singapore, and the company has built upon this experience to develop technology for city-wide management of autonomous vehicle fleets in urban settings.
The company employs experts in perception, motion planning and decision-making, and is developing state-of-the-art software to enable autonomous urban driving, for use in both privately-owned vehicles and mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) providers, such as autonomous taxis. nuTonomy is pioneering a new technique for decision-making, based on methods that have been used in the development of spacecraft, airplanes and other complex automated vehicles. Other, more conventional, approaches to automated driving, which rely on cumbersome, rigid decision-making logic, often result in vehicles that frequently drive in an overly cautious, jerky and uncertain manner.
“Our vision is to deliver the world’s smartest autonomous vehicle and be the software engine of automated cars,” said Karl Iagnemma, CEO and co-founder of nuTonomy. “By applying advanced techniques from the aerospace industry, we’re creating a self-driving car that is safe, confident and drives in a truly ‘human-like’ manner.”
Chris Thomas, the founder and partner of Fontinalis – a venture capital firm strategically focused on next-generation mobility – and who will join the nuTonomy board, noted, “Autonomous vehicle technology will disrupt and redefine the future of urban mobility and transportation. We feel strongly that nuTonomy’s robust approach to decision-making will position them to be a leading player in this disruption.”