Why we invested in DriveU.auto
DriveU.auto is an Israel-based developer of a superior connectivity platform for autonomous vehicle teleoperation. On June 23, 2020, the company announced a $4M capital raise to accelerate autonomous vehicle deployments.
Learn more about the funding round on TechCrunch.
We are convinced that DriveU.auto has the requisite team, technology, and partners to capitalize on a massive market opportunity, and we are proud to be part of the round.
Autonomous Vehicles – What is the road ahead?
As has been written ad infinitum, building a fully autonomous vehicle is difficult. AV launch dates have been announced, revisited, and repeatedly delayed.
Even though the road ahead may be long, the industry is committed and the impact will be significant. The US Department of Transportation estimates that autonomous vehicle adoption could save 35,000 lives every year in the US alone by reducing car accidents caused by human error. The technology can also significantly reduce traffic congestion and fuel consumption. Morgan Stanley predicts that autonomous vehicles could save us up to $1.3 trillion annually in the United States. To pursue this opportunity, technology and auto companies have already invested over $100 Billion dollars into AV research, and they continue to compete aggressively to win the race for dominance in AV.
The COVID-19 outbreak has further bolstered the attraction of Autonomous Vehicles, creating additional urgency surrounding opportunities for autonomous deliveries, trucking, robotaxis, and other applications.
Teleoperation – A critical leg of the journey
Waymo’s John Krafcik has publicly said “self-driving cars will require driver assistance for many years to come,” and he has further indicated that he doesn't envision a day when the technology will operate in all weather conditions and without some sort of “user interaction.”
We agree, and we believe this requirement will create a robust teleoperation market. Teleoperation can enable many of the benefits of AV to arrive years earlier, especially by addressing the edge conditions that are so difficult for AI to master without significant training data.
The majority of the leading players in the AV space are determined – in many cases mandated by regulation – to have remote human oversight and, when needed, human intervention as a core component of all AV implementations.
Of course, teleoperation will require the right technology stack. In particular, it requires a continuous two-way flow of information between the vehicle and the remote driver or assistant, including high-quality 4k video, audio, sensor data, and control. This mission-critical communication requires ultra-low latency and high reliability that cannot be provided by any one network or even the much-touted 5G infrastructure.
That’s where DriveU.auto fits in. The DriveU.auto connectivity platform uses patented technology to overcome unpredictable network behavior, inconsistent coverage and delays to ensure the superior connectivity required for vehicle teleoperation.
DriveU.auto is a spin-out of LiveU, a world leader in the field of HD video transmission. With over 3,000 customers in 130+ countries, LiveU’s technology is the solution of choice for global broadcasters, news agencies, sports and entertainment, streaming live video to TV, mobile, online and social media. LiveU units are used to cover all the major news, sports and entertainment events worldwide, including the US Presidential Election, the FIFA World Cup™, Winter and Summer Olympic Games, Super Bowl, US Collegiate Championships and red-carpet events.
LiveU pioneered the technology we use to stream video and audio over cellular networks for live broadcasting. It is exactly this type of data flow that AV will require. The DriveU team built on this technological base to create world-class connectivity for the teleoperation of vehicles.
DriveU.auto – A rare opportunity
With that market backdrop, we met the DriveU.auto team and quickly realized there was something unique about this opportunity – an early-stage company, led by seasoned executives implementing an already proven and critical technology, and targeting a large and growing opportunity.
Alon Phodhurst Dr. Rony Ohayon Doron Elinav Zohar Shem Ari
CEO, Alon Podhurst, was most recently responsible for the commercial leadership of Cognata, developing new business opportunities with key players within the autonomous vehicle ecosystem and creating customized solutions to meet customer needs. Dr. Rony Ohayon was formerly CTO at LiveU and brings deep knowledge of the core technology with him to DriveU.auto. Doron Elinav leads business development and Zohar Shem Ari leads software development – both have worked extensively in the communications, defense, and automated vehicles markets.
The DriveU.auto technology offers all the key components for remote driving and remote assisted driving with a strength in optimizing the critical communications layer.
DriveU.auto has dozens of patents on technology to encode, protect, transmit, monitor, and predict data and cell signal integrity.
Highly renowned entrepreneur and investor, Zohar Zisapel, is the lead investor on the deal. Zohar is sometimes referred to as "the Bill Gates of Israel”, having founded the RAD Group of companies, which has itself been dubbed "the world's most successful incubator" of telecom-related start-ups by Business 2.0 magazine.
There is still much execution ahead for the DriveU.auto team, of course, but it is rare to invest in the first round of a company that has real technology deployed and is already engaged with market leaders. Based on the experience, focus, and capabilities of DriveU.auto CEO, Alon Podhurst, and the DriveU.auto team and investors he has convened around him, we have great confidence that this startup is going places – pun intended.