One of the more popular categories for consumer-focused auto tech startups is the connected car, in which companies exploit car data and cloud software to allow drivers and third-party services insights into driving habits, car usage, and maintenance metrics. Companies like Zubie and Automatic market devices that capture data and allow drivers to track and improve driving habits, paired with an API for third-party services built on top of the device and software. Metromile is using data from your car to create a new type of “per-mile” usage-based auto insurance.
Fleet telematics caught on relatively early as a hot category for auto tech startups. Companies like Telogis (first funded in 2009), Greenroad (which received a Series B in 2005), and Vnomics use installed hardware — and more recently, sometimes, smartphones — to capture data about the driving habits and fuel efficiency of truck drivers. Since trucks typically transport asset-intensive goods, businesses are highly incentivized to use products like these to improve savings and manage their inventory. Most of these installed systems transmit and organize data about fleets, provide in-vehicle coaching, and notes to drivers, and also handle billing for transport as part of a suite of offerings.
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication allows cars to make decisions based on their surroundings and context, including distance, speed, and directional movement of other vehicles, underpinning self-driving and safety applications but also traffic management and driving efficiency use cases. Autotalks and Cohda Wireless market suites of hardware and software solutions for vehicle-to-vehicle communication (as well as vehicle-to-infrastructure communication). And Peloton deploys this technology primarily in trucks, which would theoretically allow self-driving trucks to travel in close “platoons,” and reduce the need for constant driver control.
Vehicle cybersecurity is a small but emerging field. As more cars become connected to the cloud and infrastructure and other vehicles, more possible entry points exist that need to be protected against hackers’ exploits. Argus, which has raised $30M, is a cybersecurity company specifically focused on automobiles. Towersec aims to protect not just the vehicle itself, but also any telematics and any in-vehicle infotainment as well.
Driver safety and collision-prevention are among the most important immediate applications auto tech is attacking. Insurance companies are particularly interested in this category. Various approaches exist: Navdy is using heads-up projections to display relevant information so that drivers don’t look at their smartphones while driving; Cambridge Mobile Telematics analyzes your driving habits using your smartphone, and provides coaching/analytics on how to improve; and Lytx uses dashcam technology to provide feedback based on visual cues, combined with driving habits.
Driver Assistance/Automated Car
These companies are using networks of sensors and powerful software to provide driver-assistance features. While companies like Cruise are retrofitting older cars, Robot of Everything has an entire lab dedicated to improving the different facets of automated driving in their “robocars.” It’s not just cars, RoboCV is working to automate warehouse vehicles, which navigate in smaller, more constrained spaces.