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SoftBank, GM and BMW invest $159 million into driverless car start-up Nauto

  • Nauto raises $159 million from investors including SoftBank and General Motors.
  • The Palo Alto, CA-based start-up makes technology to help develop driverless cars.
Natuo's camera technology is seen in the vehicle pictured. It is capturing data that can be used for the development of driverless cars.
Nauto
Natuo's camera technology is seen in the vehicle pictured. It is capturing data that can be used for the development of driverless cars.

SoftBank and General Motors are among a group of companies that invested $159 million into U.S. driverless car start-up Nauto on Wednesday.

Palo Alto, CA-based Nauto makes cameras that sit inside of the car pointing at the driver, and outside of the vehicle looking at the road. They can track driver behavior in real time, and know if they are distracted. It uses computer vision, which is a form of artificial intelligence, to capture and process all of the data.

All of this data and insight will help the development of self-driving cars.

The $159 million financing round was led by SoftBank and Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm, with other participants including BMW iVentures, General Motors Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, and the venture arm of insurance group Allianz. Previous investors Playground Global and Draper Nexus were also involved.

Nauto said it would use the money to grow and develop its camera technology and install it into more cars globally. The funds would also help to support the expansion of Nauto's data platform for autonomous vehicle research across "multiple automakers".

As more cars equipped with Nauto's technology drive more miles, the technology will become more precise.

"Over time the Nauto data platform will inform the transition to and co-existence of human-driven and autonomous vehicles," the company said in a press release on Wednesday.

"In pursuit of the profoundly transformational impact autonomous vehicle technology can have on business and society, we'll now more rapidly be able to gather the billions more miles of real driving experience and data required to get a precise understanding of how the best drivers behave behind the wheel," Nauto CEO Stefan Heck said.

"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," Greylock partner, Nauto board member, and LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman said in a statement.

The companies involved in the funding round all have an interest in next-generation vehicle technology. For example, SoftBank acquired chip designer ARM for $32 billion last year. ARM is focused on developing chips for driverless cars. GM has also been making acquisitions and investments, purchasing autonomous car technology provider Cruise last year, and pouring $500 million into ride-hailing service Lyft.