PALO ALTO, Calif. — Voyage Auto Inc., which offers autonomous taxicab services in retirement communities, today announced that it has completed a $31 million Series B fundraising round. The company plans to use the money to further develop its technology, grow its team, expand its fleet of G2 self-driving cars, and launch its G3 vehicle.
Voyage Auto was founded in 2017 by MacCallister Higgins and Oliver Cameron, both of whom previously worked at Udacity Inc. Other companies are working on autonomous vehicles that someday “will be able to safely drive a car on any roadway at any speed at any time of day,” said Cameron in a blog post. By contrast, Voyage plans to commercialize self-driving cars in more constrained environments today, he wrote.
Franklin Templeton Investments led the round, with participation from Khosla Ventures, Jaguar Land-Rover’s InMotion Ventures, and Chevron Technology Ventures, bringing Voyage’s total capital to $52 million. The market for robotic taxis could be worth $2 trillion by 2030, estimates UBS Group AG. Frost & Sullivan predicts that the driverless shuttle bus market will be worth $10.4 billion by 2031.
“Chevron has been supporting the public’s transportation needs for over 100 years,” stated Dr. Barbara Burger, president of Chevron Technology Ventures. “We established the Future Energy Fund in 2018 with an initial commitment of $100 million to invest in breakthrough technologies that enable the ongoing energy transition. The fund looks for technologies that lower emissions and support low-carbon value chains. Our investment in Voyage fits well within the objectives of the Future Energy Fund while also informing our perspective on the changing energy landscape.”
Voyage Auto readies self-driving cars
The startup began with a self-driving car with no test driver that could travel door to door within retirement communities at 25 mph. The communities in San Jose, Calif., and Central Florida have 4,000 and 125,000 residents, respectively. The intention is to serve people who would otherwise have difficulty maintaining their independence and to serve increasingly complex environments.
Voyage Auto claimed to have made rapid progress, as its vehicles are able to autonomously navigate and safely transport passengers. It said its engineers have moved to safety-critical and certifiable middleware, shipped a new prediction engine with “an over 10x performance improvement,” and built triple redundancy into its perception system.
Voyage is working with CARMERA Inc., a startup that provides high-definition maps and navigation to autonomous vehicles in real time.
Growing the team
In the past 12 months, Voyage Auto has hired Drew Gray, who worked at Uber Advanced Technologies Group, Otto Motors, General Motors’ Cruise spinoff, and Tesla, to be its chief technology officer. David Baccet, who worked at Chinese self-driving car company NIO and Tesla, also joined Voyage as director of autonomy.
“Since investing in the company’s Series A in 2018, it’s been fantastic to watch the business go from strength to strength. The company has made some incredible hires, which have been instrumental in enabling the development of Voyage’s state-of-the-art technology,” said Sebastian Peck, managing director at InMotion Ventures. “They’ve shown us that they have the capability to quickly make self-driving, autonomous taxis in residential communities a reality, sooner than anyone would have thought.”
The company has also hired sales and service personnel, tripling in headcount since its Series A in January 2018. It is now hiring engineering, operations, and leadership staffers in Palo Alto, Florida, and remotely.
Voyage to add vehicles to its fleet
Voyage Auto began with a retrofitted Ford Fusion, also used by other companies, that it dubbed the “G1.” In June 2018, it used a Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan as the “G2” because of its sensors and safety systems.
The company plans to expand deployments of the G2 with its partners, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and The Villages, which runs retirement communities in Central Florida. Voyage also plans to develop a G3 autonomous vehicle, but it didn’t specify any details yet.
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Filed Under: Automotive, The Robot Report