Scotty Labs, a tele-operations company that is working on technology to enable people to remotely control self-driving cars, has raised a $6 million seed round from Gradient Ventures with participation from Horizon Ventures and Hemi Ventures. Gradient Ventures is an early-stage venture fund housed within Google.
“Usman and I founded Scotty on the belief that human intelligence is critical to solving the autonomous driving problem,” Scotty co-founder and CEO Tobenna Arodiogbu wrote in blog post. “The company exists to answer the fundamental questions — what role do humans play in the future of robotics and automation, and how do we leverage human and machine intelligence to build a better future?”
That’s what led to the creation of the company’s first product, a tele-operations platform that lets humans virtually control cars. The idea, Arodiogbu wrote, is this type of human intervention will help “solve some of the hardest edge cases of driving, while allowing AV companies and their teams to focus on what they do best — building and improving their autonomous driving technology.”
If something goes wrong, a human could theoretically intervene from the safety of their home, rather than from the car itself. Scotty Labs’ first partner is Voyage, an Udacity spin-out that’s aiming to build a fully self-driving taxi platform. In October, Voyage began testing its self-driving vehicles in retirement communities.
“We decided to work with Voyage as a partner because we are excited by and fundamentally believe in the work they are doing,” Arodiogbu wrote. “We believe it is critical to provide autonomy to the communities that need it the most. We also both share a belief that human intelligence will be needed to achieve level 4 autonomy, and we share a deep and uncompromising focus on safety above speed in the deployment of fully autonomous systems. We will continue to support Voyage in the coming months and years as they achieve their goal of building a level 4 autonomous fleet.”