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Volvo Group Venture Capital AB announced it invested in Apex.AI, a startup software company involved in autonomous mobility, to help fund the development of a safety-certified software framework for autonomous systems.
Separately, Volvo also invested in Autotech Ventures, an American venture capital fund focusing on startups in the ground transportation sector.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Apex, founded in 2017, is building an automotive-grade robot operating system, or ROS. It has an established open source software framework commonly used in robotics and autonomous systems research, according to Volvo.
“We are excited to invest in a company that enables easier development of safety-certified systems,” said Anna Westerberg, acting CEO of Volvo Group Venture Capital and senior vice president of Volvo Group Connected Solutions.
By providing a safer and more reliable version of ROS that will be certified according to the automotive functional safety standard ISO 26262, Apex.AI enables companies to take their autonomous vehicle projects into production, according to Volvo.
Apex.AI is scheduled to release its flagship product, Apex.OS, to the automotive market in early 2020 and subsequently expand to other safety-critical autonomous systems. The new strategic investments are evidence of Apex.OS’ broad applicability from traditional automotive to off-highway sectors, including construction, mining and agriculture as well as industrial robotics and aerospace, according to the company.
“The investment comes at a time of massive change for the mobility industry. As the development of autonomous systems advances, companies need software that is safe and reliable to run them — a critical element as the industry moves from research to commercialization,” Apex.AI co-founder Jan Becker said.
Becker said other companies investing in Apex.AI at the same time included Hella Ventures and Jaguar Land Rover’s venture capital arm, InMotion Ventures.
No investment amounts were provided.
“We are eager to leverage their deep expertise in the mobility industry to move Apex.AI forward,” Becker said. “Volvo Group is one of the largest manufacturers of heavy-duty vehicles, trucks, buses and construction equipment, and Jaguar Land Rover brings decades of experience as a beloved high-end car manufacturer. Hella is a leading international supplier of automotive electronics and lighting. This builds on our bench of existing backers, which include Toyota AI Ventures, Airbus Ventures, Canaan Partners, Lightspeed Ventures and others.”
Marco Marinucci, a partner at Hella Ventures, said he believed Apex.AI is uniquely positioned in the autonomous vehicle space.
“With Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy taking longer and costing more than initially anticipated, Apex.AI enables the automotive industry to shorten the time to development,” Marinucci said.
Level 4 is high automation in specific conditions, according to the U.S Department of Transportation — even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene.
Level 5 is full automation — a truck or other vehicle can drive itself anywhere under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver.
Meanwhile, Autotech Venture, located in Silicon Valley, manages more than $200 million and focuses on the $3 trillion ground transportation sector — including connected, autonomous, electrified vehicles and related mobility services that have created shifts in the ground transportation industry.
“The investment provides Volvo Group Venture Capital with an enhanced deal flow but also access to deep industry knowledge and relevant networks,” Volvo Group Venture Capital investment director Dan Tram said.
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