Teleoperators who remotely monitor and control autonomous vehicles rely on high-performance connectivity to transfer 4K video, multiple audio streams and other data. Even a skosh of latency, jitter or packet loss could spell disaster for a teleoperator intervening to help an autonomous sidewalk delivery bot or even a robotaxi.
One Israeli startup, which spun out of video transmission technology company LiveU, has developed a connectivity platform aimed at ending unpredictable network behavior. Now, after a year as an independent company, DriveU.auto is coming out of stealth with $4 million in new funding.
The funding round was led by RAD group co-founder Zohar Zisapel and included participation from Two Lanterns Venture Partners, Yigal Jacoby, Kaedan Capital and other private investors. Francisco Partners is an existing shareholder. Alon Podhurst, who was vice president of sales at Israeli startup Cognata, has joined DriveU.auto as CEO.
The connectivity platform is designed specifically for teleoperations, a burgeoning technology used to support a variety of autonomous vehicle applications, including robotaxis, self-driving trucks and delivery drones.
DriveU.auto uses what it calls cellular bonding technology, 4K video encoding and advanced algorithms to adapt to changes on a network. Podhurst explained that the company's “secret sauce” is how it fuses dynamic encoding and cellular network bonding to enable the level of connectivity needed for demanding AV use cases.
The platform provides the missing link for AV companies that want to deploy autonomous vehicles without a human safety driver, Podhurst told TechCrunch. It works in the two major use cases of teleoperations. Teleoperations can be used for direct driving, in which a remote human operator controls the autonomous vehicle. That operator can also use a teleoperations system for remote assistance such as providing high-level driving commands.
DriveU.auto started as a unit within LiveU. It was initially part of LiveU's CTO office. Although it spun out as an independent company late last year and is now a standalone company, some of its shareholders also have stakes in LiveU.
DriveU.auto has demonstrated its platform with AV developers and Tier 1 suppliers on public roads in Europe, Israel, Japan and the United States, according to Prodhurst. The investment followed engagement with several customers that helped confirm market demand for its technology.
DriveU.auto isn't sharing customer names. However, Podhurst was able to share that its product is being tested by companies developing delivery and robotaxi platforms, autonomous trucking technology as well as a Tier 1 supplier. DriveU.auto also has a long-term proof of concept agreement with another Tier 1 supplier.