Otonomo Brings Back Control Over Data to Car Manufacturers

A new startup, floated up a few days ago from the sea of stealth mode, tries to give the power of smart transportation back to the car manufacturers. Otonomo, a company that has created a pool of drivers’ and vehicles’ data collected from car vendors, raised $12M earlier this week in a financial round led by Bessemer.

According to Zirra, a research company that analyzes the private tech market, this young company that was founded last year is already worth $90M-$100M. And in the case that someone would like to grab up Otonomo and buy it, he could pay up to $150M dollars.



Otonomo gives the car manufacturers control over the data produced by their own machines in a world where ride-hailing apps like Uber, Lyft and Didi are gaining significant power. In fact, ride-sharing services would like to use companies such as Otonomo in order to get data that isn’t available to them from a smartphone, like mechanical conditions or the amount of gas left in the tank.

Otonomo will allow car manufacturers to share and monetize car data, as well as develop numerous new in-car services that meet all security, privacy, and data regulations requirements.

Through Otonomo’s open cloud service, the company will connect millions of vehicles with a wide range of services and apps, creating a new marketplace of car data and enriched services. Otonomo will gather driver and vehicle data from manufacturers’ databases and then standardize the data for use by third party developers or services.

The data collected can be useful for services such as alerting car owners about their kids’ driving habits, sending coupons related to the drivers’ location, or giving them discounts on insurance if they drive safe.

Earlier this week, Otonomo raised $12 million in venture funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, StageOne Ventures, Maniv Mobility and LocalGlobe.


Who Will Control The Real Time Data?

Otonomo takes part in a bigger campaign about control over the data flowing from connected cars. On the one side, apps collect data on car location and drivers’ behaviour through smartphones. OBD dongles connected with bluetooth to smartphones can also disclose mechanical data.

On the other side, car manufacturers would like to control this entire flow of data. They have a reason, as they hold detailed and accurate information, even more than what OBD dongles can produce. For instance, only a car manufacturer can tell that a gas tank is about to run out or if the brakes need an urgent repair.

OBD ports. Will they disappear from our lives?

Bessemer Venture PartnersҠVice President Amit Karp says that OBD dongles will disappear from our lives as car manufacturers either stop installing them, or either build their own proprietary OBD dongles, eventually taking control over the vertical. “Think of a dongle that is given for free for everyone who purchases a connected car”, he tells Zirra.

“The only possible threat to car manufacturer’s control over the data are the operating system developers like Google and Apple. An OS that is uploaded into infotainment system can gain better visibility to the real time mechanical and electrical parameters.

The SIM card takes it all

Eran Shir, co-founder and CEO of Nexar, an app that builds “an air traffic control” for cars in order to warn drivers of potential risks, takes his data from smartphone cameras on the road. The computer vision technology behind the company has analyzed 4 billion photos to date and produced road alerts on a real time basis about events such as a sudden braking, erratic drivers, car accidents and even fire or floods on the street.

The data, he says in a talk with Zirra, will keep flowing to the server from SIM cards, whether they are embedded in smartphones or inside a connected car. Real time data is the game changer here, says Shir, and adds that with OTT services like Nexar data is updated every 50 milliseconds. In comparison, Google’s Waze real time map refreshes the data only once every two minutes.

“This was never done”, says Dan Peguine, VP of growth at Nexar, “you’ve got two different drivers and each of them alerts us automatically that someone was surprisingly breaking. We believe this kind of connectivity should happen with a phone”.

In the future, Nexar’s vehicle to vehicle (V2V) network should use as an infrastructure of an autonomous cars network. The future of vehicle to vehicle networks, tells Shir, belongs to OTT services over LTE and 5G. The architecture, he says, quite resembles the technology developed by real-time multiplayer gaming companies.

Another startup in the field is Civil Maps who raised $6.6M last summer from Ford and others. Civil Maps is mapping the urban landscape using sensors within cars but, unlike Nexar, hasn’t proved yet to alert drivers or cities on obstacles and dangers on the road.

Assaf Gilad

An ex-journalist from Calcalist, a leading business and tech news outlet in Israel, I'm now writing about startups for Zirra.com.