The startup doesn’t make self-driving cars. Rather, it's a developer of safety software for companies that do make them, offering video game-style simulations of autonomous driving scenarios. The company’s flagship product is computer program that allows users to test their self-driving cars on virtual streets where unexpected and dangerous conditions pop up, including jaywalkers and trucks that abruptly change lanes.
This type of technology is certainly necessary: While cars with human drivers have their own safety systems in place, ones that drive themselves need a whole different set of tools. As a fatal crash involving a self-driving Uber earlier this year helped indicate, the needs for insuring safety will only grow as autonomous vehicle tech becomes more widespread.
“Unlike the driver assistance systems deployed today—in which the driver is assumed to be attentive—[autonomous vehicles] have to perform safely in any real world scenarios, including the graceful handling of system failures,” Applied Intuition wrote in a blog post announcing its launch.
Andreessen Horowitz and Floodgate provided the round of Series A funding for the company, which is also developing software to place in vehicles that will eventually end up on public streets. Marc Andreessen, an a16z co-founder who will join Applied Intuition's board as part of the deal, wrote in his own announcement that he believes “the most under-hyped area of new technology right now is autonomous vehicles, particularly self-driving cars.”
Other venture capitalists are certainly taking note. VC investment in the industry has boomed over the last five years:
As you can see, VC investors around the world have invested $3.7 billion across 54 deals in the autonomous vehicle space so far in 2018, per PitchBook data. Already, VCs have poured more cash into the industry than in any year except 2016.
Some of the other self-driving companies that have brought in funding this year include Zoox, which raised $500 million at a $3.2 billion earlier this summer, and Aurora, which secured a $90 million Series A in February.