Toyota invests in autonomous driving simulation startup Parallel Domain

Parallel Domain, the startup that develops software to train self-driving cars in virtual worlds, has added an additional investor to its seed round. Earlier this month, Toyota AI Ventures contributed to Parallel Domain’s $2.65 million seed round led by Costanoa Ventures, with participation from Ubiquity Ventures and others.

“We’re not only impressed with their technology, but also with the Parallel Domain team,” Toyota AI Ventures Founding Manager Director Jim Adler wrote in a blog post. “They have a clear vision for solving the problems associated with getting AVs on the road safely, and the expertise to make it happen.”

Using real-world map data, procedural growth algorithms and generative models, Parallel Domain’s platform can teach cars how to drive and make sure the car’s software is learning how to drive properly, he said. All elements of the world are adjustable and programmable — be that the number of lanes, type of terrain, the location of mountains, road curvature and so forth.

Initially, the plan is to sell this platform to autonomous vehicle companies. From there, an autonomous vehicle company could use Parallel Domain to generate 3D, virtual worlds in which to test their cars.

“With test vehicles driving millions of miles per year, improving the safety of self-driving cars is an immediate necessity,” Parallel Domain founder Kevin McNamara wrote on LinkedIn earlier this month. “Simulation has the opportunity to minimize the danger of real-world training and testing while allowing companies to focus their dollars and engineering hours on what matters most: building a car that can drive itself. Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to that goal.”