nuTonomy Inc., developer of advanced software for autonomous vehicles, today announced it has closed a $3.6M seed funding round, with investments from Signal Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Fontinalis Partners and Dr. Steven LaValle. The funding will help support nuTonomy’s continued work in the U.S. as well as in Singapore, where industry and government are jointly piloting autonomous vehicle technology. nuTonomy’s software is currently being integrated and tested by automotive partners in both the U.S. and Europe, with the goal of deploying self-driving features within the next few years.
“nuTonomy’s vision is to deliver the world’s smartest autonomous vehicle and be the software engine of automated cars,” said Karl Iagnemma, CEO and co-founder of nuTonomy. “By applying advanced techniques from the aerospace industry, we’re creating a self-driving car that is safe, confident and drives in a truly ‘human-like’ manner.”
nuTonomy is pioneering a new technique for decision-making based on methods that have been used in the development of spacecraft, airplanes and other complex automated vehicles. Other approaches to automated driving, which rely on cumbersome, rigid decision-making logic, result in vehicles that frequently drive in an overly cautious, jerky and uncertain manner.
“We are impressed with nuTonomy’s technical acumen, especially their leadership in decision-making methods for vehicles,” said Amit Garg, strategic investments, Samsung Global Innovation Center. “Partnering across the spectrum in the industry will be essential to turning years of research into an everyday reality.”
nuTonomy’s founders have been researching and creating autonomous vehicle technology since 2005. The MIT-based visionaries behind nuTonomy have developed robotic technology with funding from NASA and DARPA. The two have already built and tested dozens of autonomous vehicle prototypes over the past decade.
Co-founder and CTO Emilio Frazzoli previously directed the first open-to-the-public pilot of on-demand automated vehicles. The pilot, which took place in Singapore in 2014, enabled more than 500 Singaporean citizens to experience an Uber-like service to request driverless transportation throughout the Jurong Lake Gardens, a central public park. That experience, led by SMART (Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology), enabled the team to prove the demand for autonomous vehicle technology in Singapore. nuTonomy has built upon this experience to develop technology for city-wide management of autonomous vehicle fleets in urban settings.
“Autonomous vehicle technology will disrupt and redefine the future of urban mobility and transportation,” said Chris Thomas, a founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners, who will join the nuTonomy Board. “We feel strongly that nuTonomy’s robust approach to decision-making will position them to be a leading player in this disruption.”
The seed round funding included investment from:
- Signal Ventures, an affiliate of Signal Ventures Ltd. (lead)– founded by Ioannis Martinos in 2015, Signal Ventures focuses on early stage investments in robotics and autonomous vehicle technology.
- Fontinalis Partners — Fontinalis Partners, with offices in Detroit and Boston, is a venture capital firm strategically focused on next-generation mobility. The firm was founded in 2009 by Bill Ford, Ralph Booth, Chris Cheever, Chris Thomas, and Mark Schulz. Fontinalis invests across all facets of the world’s mobility systems on a stage- and size-agnostic basis. Fontinalis is not affiliated with Ford Motor Company.
- Samsung Venture Investment Corporation — Samsung Venture Investment Corporation is the Venture Capital arm of the Samsung Group with offices in Seoul, Silicon Valley, Boston, London, Tokyo and Tel Aviv.
- Dr. Steven M. LaValle — former Chief Scientist of Oculus VR, which was acquired by Facebook; Dr. LaValle also serves as an advisor to nuTonomy.
nuTonomy develops state-of-the-art software to enable autonomous urban driving, for use in both privately-owned vehicles and mobility as a service (i.e., “autonomous taxis”). nuTonomy was founded by two leaders in the autonomous vehicle space, Drs. Karl Iagnemma and Emilio Frazzoli of MIT, and employs experts in perception, motion planning and decision-making. With PhDs from MIT, Caltech and other leading academic institutions, nuTonomy’s team has developed more than a dozen autonomous vehicle prototypes that have been tested in the U.S., Singapore, and Europe. The company has offices in Cambridge, Mass. and Singapore.