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OurCrowd and Land Rover Think They've Found The Future Of Mobility

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OurCrowd and Land Rover Think They've Found The Future Of Mobility
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A startup investing fund in Israel announced that it raised $40 million to fund investment in driverless car technology. Maniv Mobility raised the money from startup crowdfunding investment platform OurCrowd, Tata Motors Limited (NYSE: TTM) subsidiary Land Rover’s investing arm, and auto supplier Valeo SA (EPA: FR) as well as equity investors.

The fund's thesis is that the companies propelling the rapid growth in the autonomous vehicle industry aren’t the old guard auto makers or even the Silicon Valley tech set of Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA). No, the true creators behind the nitty-gritty components that will make self-driving cars a reality are startups. A diaspora of new-age original equipment manufacturers are plugging away at designing machine learning algorithms and object detection software that will do the actual work of driving your autonomous car.

Maniv Mobility founder Michael Granoff tackled this head-on after moving to Israel from the U.S. in 2013. Granoff recognized the country’s diversity of innovative startups that were approaching mobility in unexpected ways and felt the undeniable urge to become a supporter of the burgeoning field. In 2016, Granoff founded Maniv Mobility, a venture capital fund with a focus on transportation technology.

“I noticed that there were a lot of startups that had pieces of the [mobility] puzzle,” said Granoff. “ I started to get to know them and make personal investments. After doing that for 2-3 years it became pretty apparent that there was enough behind the scenes, that there were enough interesting startups in Israel, that it called for more than my own dabbling. It called for its own fund. Last summer we went out and raised one.”

Only a year later, the Maniv Mobility’s portfolio includes more than a dozen companies developing transportation technology. Its companies are building everything from vehicle-to-vehicle communication tools to computer learning navigation software.

In laying out the fund’s vision, Granoff elaborated on the dichotomy between the simplicity of a fully realized autonomous future and the complexity involved in actually achieving that given the current model of personal transportation.

“What it’s about is about finding better mobility,” Granoff said. “Mobility today for many people involves owning this expensive asset that requires insuring, fueling, maintaining, parking. It requires putting up with having to be ideally undistracted for the hours that you have to sit behind the wheel.”

Granoff wants to fund companies whose goals are removing the barriers to getting around that most people assume are necessities.

“What we are talking about is, instead of the Uber experience, what if using a smartphone could summon a one-seater, a comfortable electric self driving pod that could take you across town for a fraction of the cost of driving at a much greater convenience?” he said. “Or if your family wants to go on a weekend trip, summoning a living room-style vehicle that you could all be comfortable in and not have to be concerned with the stresses of operating the vehicle.”

‘We will be able to use the 20-25 percent of our cities that we devote for our cars for something else’

Maniv Mobility is not Granoff’s first foray into the forecasted future of autos. He previously worked as a founding member of the Securing America’s Future Energy think tank, which lobbied to promote electric vehicles as a necessary alternative to what he viewed as a dangerously monopolistic and politically fraught energy industry.

In his opinion, a lot of the opportunity for change comes from the sheer bloatedness of today’s transportation infrastructure. He argues that if, through autonomy, society can reduce the need to dedicate massive amounts of space, human power, and money for the sake of tens of millions of personal automobiles, those resources could be freed for other uses.

“We will be able to use the 20-25 percent of our cities that we devote for our cars for something else,” Granoff said. “We’ll be able to pay for the mobility that we need and not buy the $45,000 SUV because twice a year we need that space, but the rest of the time it’s one person schlepping around at 18 miles per gallon. It’s not just a better choice for individuals but, in aggregate, a better change for society.”

The 4 Vital Segments Of An Autonomous Vehicle Society

From the perspective of building Maniv Mobility’s portfolio, Granoff highlighted four areas that he views as separate but vital segments necessary to build an autonomous vehicle-centric society. Those are vehicle architecture, data connectivity, mobility services and automation itself.

Each company in the fund fulfills elements of one or more of these four aspects. Nexar, for example, is an AI-powered dashboard camera that records risky behavior behind the wheel. Two other companies in the fund, Ridecell and Turo, sell technology to help automakers, startups, and individuals launch on-demand driving services. The former through information management and the latter by way of a peer-to-peer car-sharing model. Then there is Oryx Vision, which builds detection systems for autonomous cars using lasers.

Given the comprehensive approach of the fund and the abundance of pioneering startups within the space, Granoff is optimistic on both the short-term viability and eventual prominence of autonomous mobility. He believes the watershed moment for driverless cars, when thousands of people will experience the technology daily, is less than five years away.

“I believe automated driving is going to happen sooner than people expect. You already have autonomous taxi services in several places around the world. I think we’ll see that increase in the coming years,” he said.

To be clear, Granoff’s vision of the autonomous future is not one where everyone owns their own personal vehicular chauffeur. Granoff pictures a sea change in the way people think about the point-A-to-point-B equation. He explained that the measure of the self-driving world’s success isn’t one of cars sold, but of distance navigated.

“[It’s] not how many self driving cars get built or get sold, the important question is how does the number of self-driven miles compare to that of traditional vehicle miles? I think the crossover is 2030. That represents perhaps a bigger social change than the introduction of the internet.”

Posted-In: autonomous vehicles driverless cars OurCrowdFintech News Startups Tech

 

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