Companies

Minus Zero raises $1.7 m to bring driverless cars to Indian roads

BL Bengaluru Bureau | | Updated on: May 23, 2022

Aim at using it for ride-hailing services or robotaxis for shared mobility

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Self-driving vehicle start-up, Minus Zero has raised $1.7 million from Chiratae Ventures, JITO Angel Network, senior executives from NVIDIA and Lyft, among others.

The funding will be primarily utilised for building an extensive autonomous vehicle R&D infrastructure and aggressively expanding the current team to get the vehicle out on roads. The team is eyeing a public launch of their first autonomous vehicle use-case in late 2022 to early 2023.

As robotaxis

Speaking to BusinessLine, Gagandeep Reehal, CEO & CTO said, “We will not be selling the vehicles. Instead, we will use it for ride-hailing services or as robotaxis for shared mobility. The R&D of the vehicle has been up for past couple of years, but we formally incorporated as a start-up around a year back.”

The final vehicle will be a four-wheeled vehicle, in the form of a shuttle with no steering wheel and acceleration pedal. With a combination of camera-based vision and algorithms, the vehicle is said to be capable of adapting its learning abilities to unprecedented traffic scenarios.

Goal is AV platform

Minus Zero believes that the complexity of self-driving cars can be solved not by stacking up more sensors or petabytes of data, but by making the AI more intuitive, similar to the way our own brain handles decision making. Minus Zero wants to build a scalable AV(autonomous vehicle) platform that can easily expand to new geographies, varied use-cases, and diverse vehicle platforms with minimal modifications.

TCM Sundaram, Founder & Vice Chairman of Chiratae Ventures, said, “Autonomous vehicles (AV) are no more a thing of the future and need to become a reality now. Scaling AV adoption beyond the current limited usage in specific cities and high-end cars, requires a re-imagination beyond relying on expensive technologies like Lidar, and training over millions of hours of data. Further, in emerging markets like India with difficult and unstructured driving conditions, the approach to AV needs to be novel and specifically tailored. The Minus Zero team brings a fresh approach to AV and build for mass adoption in entry and mid-level cars and emerging markets. We are excited to partner with them to create an industry leading standard that leads the way to making this technology commercially viable for consumers.”

From what started merely as a research paper a few years back, Gagandeep and Gursimran founded Minus Zero in 2021 while still in their undergrad. In April 2021, Minus Zero demonstrated a self-driving vehicle prototype navigating on Indian roads. The prototype is said to have relied solely on a monocular camera for sensing and using computing much less than what one might use to play modern computer games.

Safety, top priority

Adding to this Reehal said, “Our nature-inspired AI reinvents autonomy from the ground up, solving for the nuanced bottlenecks that have been a challenge for the entire ecosystem. With multiple patents in the pipeline, our proprietary approach towards self-driving mimics human intuition giving the software an ability to gain confident insights even with lesser data inputs. This enables robust decision making, which is crucial for safe navigation in scenarios where extrinsic factors like poor traffic infrastructure, rash driving, harsh weather, etc., would have otherwise compromised with the safety of the vehicle. Safety is and will be our foremost priority”

“With some notable backers like Chiratae and others on-board, we look forward to building this path breaking technology for the world, right here from India. This vote of confidence marks the onset of this new-age mobility in the country where others would have preferably presumed that self-driving might be impossible considering the traffic here as we all know it. Having reinforced ourselves with a stellar team, seasoned advisors & development partners from the AV ecosystem, we are completely on track to achieving our next milestones,” Gursimran Karla, co-founder said. Vidura Capital exclusively advised the company on their maiden institutional fundraise.

He added that they would continue to look for people who share the bold vision of solving the most challenging AI problem in the books

Published on May 23, 2022
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