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By Edward Shen

October 23, 2018

Autonomous Vehicle Start-Ups from A-Z


By now, many people may have heard that auto manufacturers are working on autonomous vehicles, also referred to as
self-driving cars, driverless cars and robot cars. OEMs such as GM, Tesla, Audi, VW, Ford, Daimler, BMW and Toyota have
spent billions of dollars developing autonomous vehicles. Automotive suppliers are also staking out their territory: Aptiv,
Bosch, Continental, Magna, Valeo and ZF to name a few.

What many people may not have heard about are the start-ups that are the vanguard of this disruption. Here is a list of 17
start-ups (in alphabetical order) to keep an eye on.

1. Company: Argo AI
Profile: Private company founded in 2017 ($1 billion of total funding to
date – backed by Ford)
Website: argo.ai
Leadership: Bryan Salesky, Co-founder and CEO; Peter Rander, Co-
founder and President

Summary: Argo is developing a Level 4 capable autonomous vehicle in


partnership with Ford – which invested $1 billion in Argo to become its
majority shareholder. While some may think of Argo as the self-driving
unit of Ford, that is not the case. Argo is a separate company and is open
to additional partnerships with other auto manufacturers.

Recent Developments: In October 2018, Argo (with Ford) announced


that it will become the first self-driving company to expand into the
Washington DC market.

2. Company: Aurora Innovation


Profile: Private company founded in 2016 ($90 million of total funding
to date. Investors include Greylock Partners and Index Ventures)
Website: aurora.tech
Leadership: Chris Urmson, Co-founder and CEO; Sterling Anderson, Co-
founder and CPO; Drew Bagnell, Co-founder and CTO

Summary: Coming out of stealth mode in 2017, Aurora was founded by


a trio of high-profile executives from Google, Tesla and Uber. Aurora
aims to cover as much of the self-driving market as possible by
partnering with OEMs and building autonomous vehicle systems that
can be used by any automaker.

Recent Developments: Aurora has announced partnerships with VW,


Hyundai and Chinese start-up automaker, Byton.

3. Company: Cruise Automation


Profile: Founded in 2013; acquired by General Motors in 2016; now an
independently-operated subsidiary of GM
Website: getcruise.com
Leadership: Kyle Vogt, Co-founder and CEO; Daniel Kan, Co-founder and
COO

Summary: Acquired by GM in 2016, Cruise is the self-driving unit of GM.


Cruise is developing fully autonomous cars for GM, without steering

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By Edward Shen
October 23, 2018

wheels or pedals, for a commercial ride-hailing fleet (robotaxis) to be


launched as early as 2019.

Recent Developments: In 2018, Cruise received investments from


Softbank and Honda totaling $5 billion and an additional $1.1 billion
from parent company GM. As of October 2018, Cruise’s valuation is
$14.6 billion (which is about one-third of GM’s overall valuation).

4. Company: Didi Chuxing


Profile: Private company founded in 2012 ($20.6 billion of total funding
to date. Investors include Softbank, Apple, Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu,
Mubadala)
Website: didiglobal.com
Leadership: Cheng Wei, Founder and CEO

Summary: The ride-hailing giant of China (which bought Uber’s China


business in 2016), Didi has also joined the race to develop autonomous
vehicles. Didi is testing its self-driving cars in a number of Chinese cities,
as well as in the US. Although autonomous driving is a relatively recent
focus for the company, Didi certainly has the funding to catch up as fast
as anyone, as it one of the top 3 unicorns in the world.

Recent Developments: Didi plans to launch autonomous taxis in 2019.

5. Company: Drive.ai
Profile: Private company founded in 2015 ($77 million of total funding
to date. Investors include NEA, GGV Capital and Grab)
Website: drive.ai
Leadership: Sameep Tandon, CEO

Summary: Based in Mountain View, drive.ai is developing autonomous


driving systems for the automotive industry. The company is testing its
vehicles in California and Texas. Drive.ai has also partnered with Lyft to
test its vehicles through Lyft’s ride-sharing platform.

Recent Developments: Drive.ai is running an autonomous passenger car


service pilot program in Frisco, Texas – which is the first such program in
the state.

6. Company: EasyMile
Profile: Private company founded in 2014 (€22 million of total funding
raised to date. Investors include Bpifrance, Alstom and Continental)
Website: easymile.com
Leadership: Gilbert Gagnaire, Co-founder and CEO

Summary: EasyMile is a French company that is developing autonomous


electric shuttle buses capable of transporting up to 15 passengers and
has launched in markets around the world, including Germany, Ireland,
Australia, Norway and the US.

Recent Developments: In September 2018, EasyMile raised €6.5 million


in a Series B round lead by Bpifrance.

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7. Company: FiveAI
Profile: Private company founded in 2015 ($37 million of total funding
raised to date. Investors include Lakestar and Amadeus Capital Partners)
Website: five.ai
Leadership: Stan Boland, CEO

Summary: FiveAI is a British autonomous driving company that is


addressing the European market. It is the first company to test
autonomous cars on public roads in the UK. Although late to the race
compared to US start-ups, FiveAI believes that they can beat their US
counterparts in Europe because their self-driving technology is being
purpose-developed for European roads.

Recent Developments: FiveAI is targeting to bring robotaxis to London


in 2019.

8. Company: Lyft
Profile: Private company founded in 2012 ($4.9 billion of total funding
raised to date. Investors include Fidelity, GM, CapitalG, KKR and
Rakuten)
Website: lyft.com
Leadership: Logan Green, Co-founder and CEO; John Zimmer, Co-
founder and President

Summary: Lyft is pursuing a diversified strategy by forming partnerships


with many different companies, such as Aptiv, GM, Waymo, JLR, Ford,
nuTonomy and drive.ai. These partners will be the ones developing the
self-driving cars, while Lyft’s strategy is to have those vehicles operate
on its ride-sharing network (the second largest in the US behind Uber).
Since the winners of the AV race have not yet been determined, it’s not
a bad idea to make a bunch of different bets. Some have compared this
to being the Android of autonomous vehicles.

Recent Developments: Lyft has teamed up with Magna, an auto


supplier, to develop autonomous driving systems. In addition, Lyft has
recently begun to develop its own autonomous vehicles.

9. Company: Navya
Profile: Public company founded in 2014 (Listed on Euronext Paris)
Website: navya.tech
Leadership: Christophe Sapet, CEO and Founder

Summary: Fresh off a July 2018 IPO, Navya is a French company that
develops autonomous shuttle buses (Autonom Shuttle) and robotaxis
(Autonom Cab). It has been rolling out pilot programs in various cities,
airports, campuses and hospitals.

Recent Developments: In August 2018, one month after its IPO in which
the company raised €38 million, Navya raised an additional €30 million
from the European Investment Bank.

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10. Company: Nuro


Profile: Private company founded in 2016 ($92 million of total funding
to date. Investors include Banyan Capital and Greylock Partners)
Website: nuro.ai
Leadership: Dave Ferguson, Co-founder; Jiajun Zhu, Co-founder

Summary: Nuro is working on a fully autonomous vehicle that will


transport goods locally. Nuro’s prototype vehicle, called the R1, was
designed for the purpose of transporting consumer goods (such as
groceries) instead of people.

Recent Developments: Nuro has partnered with Kroger, one of the


world’s largest supermarket chains, and Fry’s Food to roll out a fully
autonomous grocery delivery service.

11. Company: NuTonomy


Profile: Founded in 2013; acquired by Delphi Automotive (now Aptiv) in
2017; now a subsidiary of Aptiv
Website: nutonomy.com
Leadership: Karl Iagnemma, Co-founder and President; Emilio Frazzoli,
Co-founder and CTO & Chief Scientist

Summary: Acquired by Delphi Automotive in 2017 for $450 million,


nuTonomy is a leading developer of software systems for autonomous
vehicles. A key area of focus for nuTonomy is Singapore, whose
government is supportive of autonomous vehicles, where it has tested
robotaxi services in partnership with Grab. nuTonomy has also tested
robotaxis in Boston, with Lyft as a partner.

Recent Developments: nuTonomy is the first company to be granted


permission by Boston to test its autonomous vehicles anywhere in the
city (previously its testing was limited to the Seaport District).

12. Company: Pony.ai


Profile: Private company founded in 2016 ($214 million of total funding
raised to date. Investors include ClearVue Partners, Eight Roads,
Morningside and Legend Capital)
Website: pony.ai
Leadership: James Peng, Co-founder and CEO

Summary: Pony.ai is developing an autonomous vehicle system called


PonyAlpha. This full-stack self-driving solution is the first autonomous
vehicle system for the China market. Pony.ai is also launching a robotaxi
service with its own ride-sharing fleet in partnership with Guangzhou
Automobile Group, China’s second largest automaker. Given the large
market opportunity that China represents, it’s not surprising that
pony.ai has already reached unicorn status.

Recent Developments: In June 2018, pony.ai was granted a T3


autonomous vehicle testing license in Beijing, the first start-up to get
such a license.

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13. Company: Roadstar.ai


Profile: Private company founded in 2017 ($138 million of total funding
raised to date. Investors include Wu Capital and Shenzhen Capital
Group)
Website: roadstar.ai
Leadership: Xianqiao Tong, Co-founder and CEO

Summary: Roadstar.ai is a Chinese start-up that is focused on providing


a Level 4 robotaxi service as well as Level 2/3 autonomous driving
solutions for auto manufacturers. The company is testing its cars in
Shenzhen.

Recent Developments: In May 2018, Roadstar.ai raised a $128 million


Series A round, which is the largest Series A investment for an
autonomous driving company in China.

14. Company: Uber


Profile: Private company founded in 2009 ($22 billion of total funding
raised to date. Investors include Softbank, Toyota, Didi, Public
Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and Baidu)
Website: uber.com
Leadership: Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO

Summary: Uber was one of the early movers in the autonomous driving
race, but that hasn’t translated into as much success as one may have
expected from the ride-sharing giant. From its acquisition of Otto in
2016 (followed by its shuttering in 2018) to its litigation with Waymo to
its fatal accident in Arizona in March 2018, Uber’s position as one of the
leaders in the self-driving race has been challenged of late.

Recent Developments: In August 2018, Toyota announced that it will


invest $500 million in Uber, but perhaps more importantly will
contribute engineering and manufacturing expertise to jointly develop
self-driving cars.

15. Company: Voyage


Profile: Private company founded in 2017 ($20 million of total funding
raised to date. Investors include SV Angel, Khosla Ventures and
InMotion Ventures)
Website: voyage.auto
Leadership: Oliver Cameron, CEO

Summary: Voyage, the autonomous driving company that spun out of


Udacity, is focusing on retirement communities such as The Villages in
Florida (125,000 residents) and The Villages in San Jose (4,000 residents)
– as seniors are a key target demographic for the autonomous vehicle
market.

Recent Developments: Voyage has partnered with Enterprise to scale its


fleet, who will provide leased vehicles and maintenance management to
Voyage.

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October 23, 2018

16. Company: Waymo


Profile: Founded in 2009 as the Google Self-Driving Car Project within
Google; became a stand-alone subsidiary of Alphabet in 2016
Website: waymo.com
Leadership: John Krafcik, CEO

Summary: Waymo can probably be described as the father of


autonomous vehicle companies. Notable Waymo team members left to
start new self-driving companies, such as Argo, Aurora and Nuro. It is
the clear leader in the field and is millions of miles – of autonomous test
driving on public roads – ahead of its closest competitor. However, the
good news for everyone else is that, as is often the case in technology,
first to market does not guarantee anything.

Recent Developments: In August 2018, Morgan Stanley valued Waymo


at $175 billion.

17. Company: Zoox


Profile: Private company founded in 2014 ($790 million of total funding
to date. Investors include Grok Ventures, Blackbird Ventures, DFJ, Lux
Capital and Thomas Tull)
Website: zoox.com
Leadership: Jesse Levinson, Co-founder, President and CTO

Summary: Fresh off a recent $500 million funding round in July 2008
(post-money valuation of $3.2 billion), Zoox has grand ambitions to not
only develop autonomous driving capabilities but also to design and
build the vehicles themselves and operate a self-driving fleet (more than
likely, Zoox will need to find a few partners along the way). The vehicle
design has been kept secret, but one interesting feature is that the
vehicle’s front and back are symmetrical and can drive in either
direction.

Recent Developments: In August 2018, co-founder and CEO Tim


Kentley-Klay was abruptly ousted by the company’s Board. Zoox is
currently searching for a new CEO.