Toyota AI Ventures boosts investment in self-driving startups

May Mobility, a micro-transit company that deploys self-driving electric shuttles short distances has announced a $11.5 million seed investment round.

The corporate venture arms of two of the largest carmakers BMW and Toyta have co-led  the round, with participation from Maven Ventures, SV Angel, Tandem Ventures, Trucks Ventures, and YCombinator.

This funding will allow May Mobility to launch new deployments across the country. 

“We have demonstrated that our technology is highly capable, that riders love our vehicles, and that customers recognize the value of what we can provide,” said Edwin Olson, CEO and co-founder. “Developers and cities know self-driving transit is the future, and our fast-growing team of top computer scientists and roboticists have developed solutions to some of the most difficult transportation problems.”

May Mobility, which was founded last year and charges a monthly fee for its shuttle service, plans to use the seed money to expand in Texas and Florida — states that don’t require a safety driver, said Olson, who’s also a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan. The company will hire technicians to service and clean the shuttles, as well as supervise the routes.

“We think this strategy will get us to that Level 5 vision before the other ones,” Olson said, using an industry term for full autonomy. “We’re going to be able to go through the cycle incredibly quickly and unlock a lot of city coverage faster than people who are trying to do it all out of the gates.”

 

With a budget of $100 million, Toyota has already invested in now has disclosed investment in seven early-stage startups, from Boston to London to Tel Aviv. The common thread is advanced technology — notably artificial intelligence, robotics and big data — that is expected to power self-driving cars and on-demand ride sharing fleets.

 

 

Edwin Olson, chief executive and co-founder of May, said the company plans to launch a commercial ride-sharing service later this year.

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self-driving unit has said it will begin a similar service in late 2018, followed by General Motors in 2019.

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