Startup SafeAI, powered by a founding talent team with experience across Apple, Ford and Caterpillar, is emerging from stealth today with a $5 million funding announcement. The company’s focus is on autonomous vehicle technology, designed and built specifically for heavy equipment used in the mining and construction industries.
Out the gate, SafeAI is working with Doosan Bobcat, the South Korean equipment company that makes Bobcat loaders and excavators, and it’s already demonstrating and testing its software on a Bobcat skid loader at the SafeAI testing ground in San Jose. The startup believes that applying advances in autonomy and artificial intelligence to mining and construction can do a lot to not only make work sites safer, but also increase efficiencies and boost productivity — building on what’s already been made possible with even the most basic levels of autonomy currently available on the market.
What SafeAI hopes to add is an underlying architecture that acts as a fully autonomous (Level 4 by SAE standards, so no human driver) platform for a variety of equipment. Said platform is designed with openness, modularity and upgradeability in mind to help ensure that its clients can take advantage of new advances in autonomy and AI as they become available.
“We have seen and experienced deploying autonomous mining truck in production for last 10 years,” explained SafeAI Founder and CEO, Bibhrajit Halder in an email. “Now it’s time to take it to next level. At SafeAI, we are super excited to built the future of autonomous mine by creating autonomous mining equipment that just works.”
While SafeAI doesn’t have product in market yet, it is running its software on actual construction hardware at its proving ground, as mentioned, and it’s working with an as-yet unnamed large global mining company to deploy SafeAI in a mining truck, according to Halder. The company’s plan is to focus its efforts entirely on deploying fully Level 4 autonomy as its first available commercial product, with a vision of a future where multiple pieces of mining equipment are working together “seamlessly,” the CEO says.
Today’s $5 million round includes investment led by Autotech Ventures, and includes participation from Brick & Mortar Ventures, Embark Ventures and existing investor Monta Vista Capital.