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GM, Other Automakers Invest in Self-Driving Startup

July 19, 2017

Screenshot via Nauto.
Screenshot via Nauto.

General Motors and Japan's Softbank have joined a group of other investors who have invested $159 million in Nauto, a Silicon Valley telematics company with technology designed to reduce distracted driving in commercial fleets.

BMW, Toyota, VC firm Greylock Partners, and insurance provider Allianz Group participated in the Series B financing round, Palo Alto-based Nauto has announced. Other VC investors included Playground Global, also in Palo Alto, and Draper Nexus, which is jointly based out of Tokyo and Silicon Valley.

"SoftBank and Greylock, along with our key strategic partners, are turbo-charging Nauto’s ability to make roads safer today and to create an onramp to autonomy for the near future," said Nauto founder and CEO Stefan Heck. "At a time when traffic fatalities are climbing and distracted driving causes more than half of all crashes, we're tackling that problem by putting Nauto’s safety features into more commercial fleet vehicles — from trucks and vans to buses and passenger cars — to warn drivers and coach them on how to stay focused."

Nauto will use the funds to fuel growth and the deployment of its safety and networking system into more vehicles. The company uses a GPS-connected camera that's mounted near the rearview mirror that detects head movements and phone usage by drivers. The funds will also support the expansion of Nauto's data platform in autonomous vehicle research and development with multiple automakers.

Nauto is planning to equip more vehicles with its units so it can accumulate miles that will help it expand its network and gain a greater understanding of driving behavior to improve safety in fleets.

"In the future, driving will be a networked activity with tighter feedback loops and a much greater ability to aggregate, analyze, and redistribute knowledge," said Reid Hoffman, a Greylock partner, Nauto board member, and LinkedIn founder. "By building a network of vehicles and drivers, Nauto is accelerating the transition from a human-driver dominant world to a safer, more efficient autonomous-driving era."

Hoffman called Heck "a smart, seasoned entrepreneur."

Hoffman and SoftBank's Shu Nyatta will take board seats at Nauto, joining existing members Heck, automotive industry veteran Karen C. Francis, and Playground Global's Bruce Leak.

The automakers made their investments through their venture units such as BMW iVentures, General Motors Ventures, and Toyota AI Ventures.

In August of 2016, Nauto closed a $12 million round of Series A financing that included an investment from Toyota.

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