A mere sprinkling of autonomous vehicles exist in a few dozen cities today. A smattering in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. A dusting in the greater Phoenix area and Pittsburgh. A few drops in Boston, Detroit, Gothenburg, Shenzhen and Singapore.
And none of them — at least not yet — have been deployed as a true commercial enterprise.
While the bulk of this nascent industry fixates on the system of sensors, maps and AI necessary for vehicles to drive without a human behind the wheel, the founders of startup RideOS are directing their efforts to the day when fleets of self-driving cars hit the streets.
It’s there, where human-driven and automated vehicles will be forced to mingle, that RideOS co-founders Chris Blumenberg and Justin Ho see opportunity. And so do investors.
The company, which has existed for all of 12 months, has raised $25 million in a Series B funding round led by Next47, the venture arm of Siemens. Sequoia, an existing investor, and Singapore-based ST Ventures, also participated in the round.
The Series B round brings the company’s total funding to $34 million. RideOS announced in June that it was partnering with Ford Motor subsidiary Autonomic and had raised $9 million in a Series A round led by Sequoia Capital.
In July, RideOS announced it had partnered with ST Engineering to accelerate the deployment of autonomous vehicles in Singapore.
What did they build anyway?
Blumenberg and Ho contend that unless there’s a coordinating layer that can communicate information between all automated vehicles — like say how air traffic control works in aviation — there will be traffic congestion and accidents.
The founders, who met at Uber Advanced Technologies Group, have developed a cloud-based fleet-management platform that pulls mapping, traffic and detection data to suggest to all self-driving vehicles operating in a given geography the safest, most efficient routes. The aim is to be an independent platform that can orchestrate communication between self-driving vehicle services that may be competitors.
RideOS is taking a similar approach to Waze, explained Blumenberg, the company’s CTO and a veteran of Apple. “Except we’re not relying on human input; we’re relying on things that can be detected automatically such as critical interventions or what is captured from computer vision or GPS data.”
However, RideOS isn’t sitting around for a day when automated vehicles hit the road en mass. The company’s platform is designed to work for human-driven fleets too. RideOS has already signed partnerships with mobility companies, Ho said without naming them.
“We’re working on this grand future, but there are many, many use cases we can support prior to that,” Ho said.
RideOS plans to use the additional funds to expand its services to global transportation markets. It just so happens that a team within Next47 is dedicated to helping startups tap into Siemens’ global network. In other words, RideOS stands to benefit from Siemens’ global footprint and partnerships, in addition to its access to capital.
Next47 will also join the RideOS board and will be integral in guiding RideOS in European transportation markets, the company said.
“There’s a tremendous amount of innovation in AVs at the moment,” Mike Vernal, a new partner at Sequoia Capital who led the company’s Series A round, told TechCrunch. “There’s probably 50, 60, 70 teams working on getting a single autonomous vehicle working. But no one is focused on what happens next.”