Applied Intuition Develops Virtual Simulator for Driverless Cars, Completes Series A Round

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【Summary】Based in Sunnyvale, California, the Marc Andreessen-backed company offers more than 100,000 different virtual driving scenarios for autonomous testing.

Michael Cheng    Sep 21, 2018 2:00 PM PT
Applied Intuition Develops Virtual Simulator for Driverless Cars, Completes Series A Round

Honing the driving capabilities of autonomous cars is extremely time-consuming on closed tracks and public roads. However, with the right tools and equipment, automotive companies can streamline this critical aspect of development.

In the self-driving sector, many businesses are turning to virtual simulators to recreate a wide range of road conditions, including bad weather and busy intersections. Applied Intuition, a Marc Andreessen-backed startup, is one of the companies in the space that provides driverless simulators for developers. Based in Sunnyvale, California, the establishment offers more than 100,000 different driving scenarios for testing.  

Testing Autonomous Driving Scenarios

Applied Intuition's software is ultimately designed for startups that don't have the resources and time to create their own virtual simulator. Specifically, the startup's products are suitable for Tier 1 suppliers, OEMs and autonomous vehicle companies.

To date, several large self-driving businesses, from Waymo to GM's Cruise and Uber, have successfully launched their own in-house simulator for autonomous vehicles. Having access to such software is a huge advantage, as it enables businesses to test multiple virtual vehicles simultaneously; and in some cases, speed up the routes without affecting the quality of the test. Moreover, testing can be facilitated at any time, including after general business operating hours and weekends.

"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," said Applied Intuition.

Applied Intuition's virtual world is not as fancy as other types of software used for testing driverless cars, in a sense that the environment consists of simple grid lines and obstacles on the road appear as blocks (the company is in the process of hiring artists specializing in virtual words). However, the simulator is packed with features for developers to customize and indulge in.

The startup's software is capable of monitoring how various elements, such as intersections and other vehicles, affect the driverless car's speed. Additionally, the simulator can detect sudden movements made by the vehicle and its influence on the comfort of passengers.

Series A Funding Round

Applied Intuition recently completed a Series A round to improve access to funds. Led by Andreessen Horowitz and Floodgate, the startup raised an impressive $11.5 million during the financing event. Other investors include the following firms and individuals: Liquid2, Haystack, AngelList founder Naval Ravikant and Lux Capital. Prior to the Series A round, the startup was operating in stealth mode.

Marc Andreessen, a prolific tech investor who co-founded Netscape and Ning, will be joining Applied Intuition as a board member. With a net worth of over $1 billion (as of 2017), Andreessen is also on the board of eBay, Facebook and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

"I think the most under-hyped area of new technology right now is autonomous vehicles, particularly self-driving cars," said Andreessen in a blog post.

"We must harness technology to train self-driving cars in the virtual world, through millions of hours of simulated driving, so that they are ready to perform as perfectly as possible in the real world." 

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