In the last few years, it has almost become a trend that whenever a new area in technology emerges, large tech companies across the world immediately jump into the fray to gain the first mover advantage in that field regardless of whether they possess any expertise in it or not. We have seen the same process getting repeated in the various emerging fields such as wearables, virtual reality and off late in the autonomous car space. From Uber to Alphabet to Baidu to General Motors, the list of large companies that are currently developing self-driving cars or the software for it just keeps on becoming larger almost every week. However, it looks like a startup might soon give the giants a run for their money as it plans to launch an autonomous taxi service by as early as 2018.
The startup that we are talking about is nuTonomy, which in just three years of its existence has become one of the leading developers of software for self-driving cars. On May 24, the company announced that it has raised $16 million in a series A funding round led by Highland Capital Partners. Apart from prior investors Fontinalis Partners and Signal Ventures, other investors that also participated in this funding round included Samsung Ventures and EDBI, which is the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board. In January this year, nuTonomy had raised $3.6 million in seed funding from a group of investors that included Signal Ventures and Fontinalis Partners, a venture capital firm co-founded by Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford.
Bob Davis, General Partner at Highland Capital Partners, said, “nuTonomy is a global leader in the self-driving car space, and they’re leading the charge to change the fundamentals of human transportation. We’re very excited to help nuTonomy put the world’s first autonomous taxi fleet on the road.”
The Robo-Taxi Opportunity
Founded at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by Dr. Karl Iagnemma and Prof. Emilio Frazzoli , who have put in over 10 years of research in the field, nuTonomy was spun out of MIT in 2013 and is currently headquartered in Boston.
“nuTonomy’s self-driving vehicle software unlocks access to a multi-trillion dollar global ‘robo-taxi’ opportunity. This funding will accelerate the pace of our progress in deploying self-driving vehicles in Singapore and beyond,” Dr. Iagnemma, CEO of nuTonomy, said in a statement released by the company.
Tests Are On
nuTonomy was the first private company to win the governmental approvals in Singapore for testing self-driving cars on public-roads in the country. Apart from operating an R&D fleet of autonomous vehicle in Singapore, the company is also operating self-driving cars in Michigan, United States and in the United Kingdom, where it is testing its software in partnership with leading players in the automotive industry like Jaguar Land Rover.
Though the company is currently using retrofitted Mitsubishi iMiev electric cars to test its software, according to the Wall Street Journal, it will be adding Renault Zoe electric vehicle in its autonomous cab service later this year.