Nexar turns your smartphone into a smart dashboard camera with the ability to record and report bad drivers in the hope of making our roads safer
Moving one step closer to creating a safer driving experience, the Israeli startup Nexar announced today the end of their Series A round, bringing in $10.5 million in funding.
The round was lead by new investors Mosaic Ventures and True Ventures, with seed backers Aleph and Slow Ventures taking part as well. Coupled with their initial funding, this round brings the company to a total of $14.5 million raised.
Co-founded by CEO Eran Shir and CTO Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz, Nexar uses smartphones to create an AI-backed vehicle-to-vehicle network that works to predict and prevent accidents.
Their app essentially turns the user’s device into a dashcam that monitors traffic and talks with other devices around it, utilizing machine learning, sensor fusion, and networking to collect data about how cars are moving on the road.
Having launched their app for iOS back in February, they are already being used by drivers in 130 countries, including the U.S., Lebanon, Australia, South Korea, and Uganda. Since their launch, they have been running intensive programs in San Francisco, New York City, and Tel Aviv to build a community of users and improve the system.
“Since starting our beta in San Francisco nine months ago, we’ve captured and analyzed over 300,000 road events, seen and profiled over 7 million vehicles, and recorded over 400,000 driving hours, spanning over 8 million kilometers,” Shir tells Geektime.
In San Francisco, their app has been useful in documenting bad drivers, like with this case where a police car hits into a cyclist on the road.
The company has been hard at work to develop their UX to be more road-friendly, incorporating voice controls so that the driver can keep their hands on the wheel.
In taking a closer look at what makes Nexar really innovative is not just its ability to capture data through video, although this has been extremely useful for gathering information that helps build reconstruction of accidents or other incidents; it is how they have been able to leverage their network of users to get a bird’s eye view of the situation on the road. This allows their sensors to reach beyond the line of sight, establishing a far wider radius of information collection for analysis.
Whereas great technology like Mobileye also uses computer vision to help keep drivers safe, Nexar is perhaps more like Waze in that the magic is in the communication. However since Nexar is not in the hardware market, their closest competition would more likely be Nauto, which also offers an app-based AI driver safety solution.
Looking at their practical uses beyond the important task of helping to prevent accidents, Nexar’s product and the data they have collected could reach beyond the consumer market. “We definitely have plans to work with different third parties like insurance companies, automotive, ride sharing companies and more,” Shir tells Geektime, “In fact we believe the data we collect and analyze is highly unique and multiple data products can be built on top of it.”
While the consumer app looks like it will remain free, they have a wide potential paying customer base that they can tap into, including businesses with vehicles on the road.
Over the long run, their technology and data have huge implications for the future of autonomous vehicles, learning about driving behavior and building a strong V2V comms network. Nexar claims that they are now collecting tens of thousands of driving hours every week, growing over 25% month over month. “We are collecting 30 times more kilometers per week than the Google self driving fleet,” says Shir.
Looking down the road
At first the idea of adding more cameras to an already very surveilled world feels a bit uncomfortable, but this notion quickly passed. To start, everything being recorded is in the public domain on the road, so I am less concerned about privacy here. Secondly, I actually think it is a good idea for drivers to know that they are being watched.
More and more GoPros are being mounted on cars and motorcycle helmets by individuals to record what is happening on the road. What they have produced is astounding and can make the difference in the event of an insurance battle or run-in with the law.
Following this fuel injection of new capital, the company says that they intend on expanding their team significantly, with emphasis on growing their R&D and business development department. Moving forward, they want to push hard on building strong bases of activity beyond Tel Aviv, SF, and NYC to many more cities in the U.S. and around the globe.