While many technology companies are racing towards the deployment of fully autonomous cars and trucks, one Perth startup is working on ways for those vehicles to manage themselves both on and off the road.
Founded in 2015, OviDrive describes itself as a one-stop-shop for fleet management, combining every stage of the system into one platform managed by AI and machine learning, to take as many decisions as possible out of the hands of human operators.
Co-founder Irwan Iriks says this automation is what sets them apart from other similar offerings on the market.
“We’re the first platform in the world to actually truly focus on automation, where you find a lot of these other platforms out there, they’re very much sending notifications through to a person, so that person can take action,” he said.
“The difference is that our platform is taking action on behalf of them.”
Irwan said while OviDrive is already solving industry issues, its value will be even greater in the future.
“The trend from ownership to usership has already started and the main question will very soon be: who’s going to manage all of these robo-taxis, shared vehicles, autonomous busses and so on?” he said.
“If you would do this the old school way and ask a team of people to manage these vehicles you increase idle time and error margins and eventually put the entire business at risk. It needs to be automated and immediate.”
Bringing it all together
By combining in-car sensors, mobile apps and web portals, OviDrive pools together as much information as possible, including maintenance records, registrations, fuel usage, insurance and tolls to provide a clear overview of vehicles, drivers and entire fleets, while also automating management of payments and availability.
According to OviDrive, this means where one person would have previously been able to manage around 230 vehicles, a single user can now manage as many as 10,000 through their platform.
Irwan said while the service is designed for vehicles with drivers, the future will undeniably require the management of driverless vehicles.
“Our position is to become the world’s first autonomous vehicle management system in support of new mobility products and a driverless future,” he said.
“You need to scale an automated solution to be able to provide a platform where these vehicles can make decisions for themselves, interact with suppliers through their own decisions, reduce idle time, reduce error margin.
“This is going to directly impact the economic value to the end user, as well as the user experience, which eventually will obviously impact the brand that’s providing that service as well.”
Driving future change
While OviDrive is already managing around 5,000 vehicles on Australian roads for businesses, roadside assistance operators and leasing companies, Irwan said their aspirations are much bigger following a twelve-week accelerator in Hong Kong.
Run by Nissan’s luxury car division Infiniti, General Manager Global Transformation and Brand, Dane Fisher, said the INFINITI LAB Accelerator Programme is part of an ongoing effort by manufacturer to push the boundaries of what is possible in a car.
“Our collaboration with startups has unlocked internal innovation and intrapreneurship, helping to transform corporate culture at INFINITI in ways not possible before,” he said.
“To stay ahead in the digital transformation race, we must look outwards beyond our own key business functions and partner our people with startups and progressive thinkers to build an ecosystem where open innovation can truly happen.”
As part of the accelerator, OviDrive and seven other international startups had the chance to pitch to a variety of investors, including Alliance Ventures – a VC fund of up to $1 billion operated by a partnership between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi.
The team didn’t secure any funding from Alliance Ventures this time around, they didn’t come away empty handed.
“We’ve just signed a strategic partnership to move into the UK and Europe with Automotive Software Solutions, which is pretty exciting,” Irwan said.
“We would expect to move to a series A raise in the next six months as we go through the due-diligence process and move to a term sheet,” Irwan said.
“In the meantime, this raise makes sense and gives the next investors the opportunity to get in at a lower valuation.”
To learn more about OviDrive, click here.
Main image: OviDrive co-founders (from the left) Ovidiu Radu, Irwan Iriks and Ron Sullivan at the INFINITI Labs accelerator in Hong Kong (supplied).