Founded by ex-Qualcomm engineers, Netradyne taps computer vision and edge computing to power an in-cab camera to help improve driver safety
By MIKE FREEMAN
JULY 15, 2021 6:01 PM PT
A San Diego computer vision and edge computing startup founded by two ex-Qualcomm research engineers has raised $150 million from Softbank Vision Fund and others to accelerate technologies that improve driver safety in commercial truck fleets.
Netradyne, which opened its doors in 2015, has developed an in-cab camera system with hefty, embedded computing power and artificial intelligence software, said Chief Executive and co-founder Avneesh Agrawal.
The computer vision camera tracks hundreds of objects on the road and optionally the driver in real time. It delivers audio alerts to drivers calling out not only unsafe practices, such as following too close, but also delivering praise for safe practices, such as slowing down to allow vehicles to merge on a highway.
“The technology we’re using is very similar to the perception stack of autonomous driving,” said Agrawal. “Our assertion is that autonomous driving, at scale, is at least 10 years away. So, what if we did everything that autonomous driving did, but instead of taking control of the vehicle, let’s invest in the drivers. Let’s use this amazing technology to make the drivers safer and the roads safer.”
San Diego is a hub for camera-based commercial truck driver safety technology. Both Lytx, the maker of the DriveCam and SmartDrive are based here. Thousands of trucks are on the road with their in-cab camera and telematics solutions.
These systems often rely on G-forces, such as hard braking or swerving, to trigger the capture of a section of video from a loop. The recording can provide video evidence to exonerate drivers in an accident.
Netradyne says its next-generation artificial intelligence and edge computing platform captures and analyzes data immediately without a triggering event. That can help identify problems before an incident, as well as chronicle good driving practices to help retain and motivate employees in an industry plagued by driver shortages.
“Sometimes it’s the simple, positive information that goes a very long way,” said Agrawal.
Before founding the Netradyne, Agrawal spent 20 years at Qualcomm, including working as head of global research at one point. Co-founder David Julian also was a research engineer at Qualcomm, focusing on artificial intelligence. He is now Netradyne’s chief technology officer.
The 300-employee company counts more than 1,000 trucking companies as customers in North American and India, where it currently operates. It records roughly 200 million road miles per month, said Agrawal.
Netradyne has more than 100 workers in the U.S., mostly in San Diego. It will use the new funding to expand into Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other new markets. It also will invest in research and development around its core technology.
“There is a huge opportunity,” said Agrawal. “Commercial insurance is becoming very expensive. Liability judgments that we call nuclear verdicts — $10 million-plus judgments — have grown almost 500 percent in the past five years. So, it is driving the need for safety solutions to actually reduce the incident rate.”
The company said some customers have seen a 90 percent gain in complying with stop signs, a 60 percent improvement in distracted driving and a 76 percent improvement in following distance.
Along with SoftBank Vision Fund, existing investors Point72 Ventures and M12 participated in the funding round. The company has raised a total of $197 million since its founding.
“We believe Netradyne is an industry leader who is poised to profoundly impact the entire transportation ecosystem by creating safer roads,” said Nagraj Kaskyap, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers. “We are pleased to partner with Avneesh and the Netradyne team as they harness the power of computer vision and edge computing to revolutionize modern-day transportation.”