CEO Ben Volkow and President Avner Cohen
Delphi Automotive, Bessemer Venture Partners, StageOne Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, and Hearst Ventures
The auto industry is zealously gearing up for the day when autonomous cars conquer the roads. Until that happens, probably a matter of just a few years, Israeli startup Otonomo is proposing to upgrade our driving experience in the present, through connected vehicles.
"Ben and I were CEOs of different companies when he told me about the world of the driverless car," Otonomo cofounder and president Avner Cohen says in describing how the founders arrived at their idea. "We realized that an automotive revolution was coming, in which digital players like Google, Tesla, and Apple were going to change the field, and that the information coming from vehicles would be worth a lot of money in the future - possibly even more than the vehicle itself. We thought that the driving experience would be a critical factor."
Otonomo says that various apps, in the car itself or on the driver's smartphone, are at the core of this experience. It can be a parking location app, an app for finding a cut-price filling station, and even future apps that refuel the car when it is parked.
Cohen: "Otonomo is building a platform that shares information from the vehicle. All of this information goes online, and we share it with interested parties, for example, an insurance company that wants to match the price of its policy to the driver, or an emergency services company sending a patrol vehicle, which will be able to know what caused the malfunction in the vehicle that broke down. There are many companies with an enormous strategic interest in the information. We take the information and share it legally. In today's vehicles, this information is sent to the manufacturer's database in any case, and generally no use is made of it. Our solution, which is cloud-based, makes it possible to connect up the data. One of the auto manufacturers' worries is that what happened to Nokia, which was bypassed when it went up against Apple, will happen to them. We want to help them realize that they have to develop the user experience."
Doesn't this involve an invasion of privacy?
"This is one of the areas in which we're investing the most. We're working closely with lawyers in order to understand what is anonymous, what is personal, and what regulation says. We're being careful to prevent a black market in information trading. One of the German manufacturers selected us mainly because it saw our investment in privacy and regulation."
Do you have competitors?
"We're unaware of any direct competitors. A mapping company named Here, the former mapping division of Nokia, is doing something similar. We have a unique solution that combines a business solution with a technological solution, so we're the market leaders. Today, we're active in Europe, the US, and Japan, while one of the major European manufacturers has already presented our solution to the European Union. There's no doubt that more companies will enter this market; it's strategic and very competitive."