Autonomous Driving Developer Optimus Ride Raises $18 Million In Series A Funding

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【Summary】Optimus Ride, a MIT spinoff company developing self-driving technology, announced it has closed an $18 million Series A funding led by Greycroft Partners with participation from Emerson Collective, Fraser McCombs Capital and renowned venture capitalist and current director of MIT Media Lab, Joi Ito.

  Eric Walz  ·  Nov 02, 2017 3:53 PM PT
author: Eric Walz   

BOSTON — Optimus Ride, a MIT spinoff company developing self-driving technology, announced it has closed an $18 million Series A funding led by Greycroft Partners with participation from Emerson Collective, Fraser McCombs Capital and renowned venture capitalist and current director of MIT Media Lab, Joi Ito.

Optimus Ride has raised a total of $23.25 million through two rounds of financing. The company will immediately use the capital to scale its current vehicle fleet and make strategic hires as well as continue its efforts to educate the market of the potential of fully autonomous driving technology.

Optimus is developing the "full stack" of autonomous vehicle software, says Optimus CEO and co-founder Ryan Chin. That means its software will handle mapping, controlling the vehicle, object detection and avoidance, coordinating vehicle fleets, and more.

Like many companies in this sector, Optimus doesn't make hardware. Instead it partners with companies like NVIDIA, one of its investors and a supplier of graphics processing units (GPUs), and automakers. NVIDIA's DRIVE PX platform powers Optimus Ride's fleet of autonomous vehicles. Optimus has declined to name any of the company's partners in the automotive sector.

A recent study from Boston Consulting Group and the World Economic Forum, "Making Autonomous Vehicles a Reality: Lessons from Boston and Beyond," predicts that driverless cars could reduce air pollution, significantly lessen city traffic and free up much needed additional parking spaces. With ties to MIT and a founding team with a collective three decades of experience in robotics, on-demand transportation and electric vehicles, Optimus Ride is uniquely positioned to help usher in the next era of transportation in the City of Boston and beyond.

"Autonomy is currently revolutionizing the transportation industry." said John Elton, Partner at Greycroft. "The changes will impact not only transportation users' free time, but the broader world with a safer, more environmentally friendly and inclusive transportation system. Greycroft is thrilled to partner with the Optimus Ride team. They are a diverse group that combines the top technical talent in computer vision and machine learning with expertise in urban design."

Earlier this year, Optimus Ride received approval from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to test highly automated vehicles in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In addition, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MassDOT along with the City of Boston to enable testing of self-driving vehicles on roads and public property in the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, beginning in Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park.

"I have known the Optimus Ride team since the very beginning of their journey as entrepreneurs, and it's been rewarding to serve as a mentor to them up to this point," said Joi Ito. "They embody the type of innovation truly interdisciplinary teams can achieve, and I'm excited to continue to support their success in the years ahead."

"My colleagues and I are extremely proud of what we have accomplished to date, and recognize that the industry is just scratching the surface of the powerful long-term benefits of driverless vehicles," said Ryan Chin, CEO, Optimus Ride. "Having the financial backing and guidance of Greycroft and our other venture partners will help us to harness our passion and execute our ultimate vision even more rapidly."

Optimus Ride's funding round comes just after its main rival in Boston, nuTonomy, announced that it was getting acquired by European auto supplier Delphi for up to $450 million.

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