Bluespace.ai, a startup that develops software systems for autonomous mass transit fleets, has announced Friday, December 13, that it has raised $3.5m (£2.6m, €3.1m) in seed funding.
The company claims to offer verifiably safe autonomous vehicle (AV) operation which it says it can achieve without undergoing the millions of miles of testing needed by current generation AVs.
President and COO Christine Moon told Techcrunch that the funding “enables our mission of making urban mobility more equitable, accessible and sustainable through mass transit automation in the near term.”
The company’s funding round was led by Fusion Fund, with other investors including YouTube co-founder Steve Chen; UMC, the Taiwanese semiconductor foundry; Kakao Ventures; GDP Ventures; Atinum; Wasabi Ventures; Blue Ivy Ventures; Plug n Play; and SLV Capital.
Bluespace hopes to speed up the process by which AVs are adopted. It intends to achieve this by focusing not on first and last mile solutions which use small, slow speed vehicles, that have been the focus of much of the development in AV systems. Rather it wants to increase the overall ability and efficiency across trunk transit routes enabling full-size vehicles to travel safely on public roads at road speed.
"We have interest from various cities around the world, big and small, and transit providers who are looking for a solution to their declining driver workforce and want a more accessible, affordable, and safer AV service to meet their mass transit needs," said Christine Moon.
In a press statement, Fusion Fund managing partner Lu Zhang said “After looking at many investment opportunities in the AV space, we found that BlueSpace stood out with their revolutionary technology approach and providing near term market application. The founding team has an incredibly strong technology background and significant deployment experience, having launched AV services in Florida, Texas and California.”
Bluespace is, however, competing in a crowded field. Volvo and Toyota are both are also working on AV solutions for mass transit along with startups like May Mobility and Optimus Ride.
According to data from CB Insights, in the first three quarters of 2018, over $4.2 billion was invested in AV technology by VCs and private sources. However, if you include the major auto manufacturers the figure rises to nearly $80 billion since 2014.