Six months after leaving Eden Shochat and Michael Eisenberg's Aleph investment fund, Eran Shir, former manager of Yahoo's Creation Innovation Center in Israel, today unveiled his new startup - Nexar. Nexar has completed a $4 million financing round led by Aleph, with participation by Slow Ventures, a fund set up by former Facebook employees and angel investors. The company, founded by Shir together with Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz, his former boss at Yahoo, is trying to make cars on the road smarter through a mobile application.
Nexar's idea is to influence the state of driving on the roads, and make it safer. "We want to make a change now, not 10 years from now, when cars will be smarter and drive themselves," Shir explains in a "Globes" interview. "The vision is simple - we don't want to only protect a specific car or prevent a specific accident; we want to build a network of drivers that will make all of them both drive better and prevent accidents on the road."
The application is operated within a Dash Cam, like the road cameras that regularly use video filming to document the traffic.
The video is saved in the device, and later, when the user is connected to a Wi-Fi network, put onto Nexar's cloud and erased from the device in order to save on storage space. While driving, the device (available only to iOS devices) enables the driver to receive warnings about nearby drivers, his own driving, and to provide feedback about the driving of nearby drivers.
"If you're driving on the Ayalon Highway, and you have a reckless driver, the system will warn you to keep your distance from him," Shir explains. "The system is able to detect the license number of any car and build a profile for any driver - including someone who doesn't use the application," Shir says, adding, "The fact that there are many cars on the road enables us to take advantage of about 1,000 users in Tel Aviv in order to map all the drivers in the city within a few weeks. When we know where each car is in real time, we'll be able to warn you about what could be an accident situation, and tell you to slow down or change to another lane."
500 billion hours a year
"All over the world, drivers spend 500 billion hours driving each year, but no one is processing driving habits and studying them," Shir explains. "We want anyone using Nexar and the receiving system and doing something wrong on the road driving too fast or zigzagging between lanes to immediately get a warning about it, so that he'll improve his driving."
Not everything is smooth with the Nexar system, though. The fact that the device becomes a road camera does not make it possible to run navigation software while driving, for example. The application constantly uses a battery, and its field of vision is limited to what is happening in front of the windshield.
Furthermore, the company is entering a market in which several companies are operating, some of them Israeli, in various aspects, the most prominent of which is Mobileye(NYSE: MBLY). "We shouldn’t be compared with Mobileye, which is a stunning company, but something completely different. Our goal is to monitor driving and prevent dangerous situations for everyone, not just protect the individual car in which the system is installed," Shir declares.
The company is launching the service in Los Angeles and Tel Aviv, where the company offices are located, and the service is provided free of charge. There are several business opportunities on the agenda, one of which involves improvement of the offers that drivers can obtain from their insurance company, based on the character of their driving, but there is nothing concrete right now.
The company is Shir's third startup. The first was Cogniview System at the beginning of the millennium, following which he dropped out in order to study for a PhD. He founded Dapper with Jonathan Aizen in 2006, which operated in the digital advertising field, and was sold to Yahoo in 2010 for $50 million.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 27, 2015
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