Lacking a single auto manufacturing plant, Israel may appear to be an unlikely hub for automotive innovation. But with thriving smart transportation and auto-tech ecosystems, the Startup Nation is nevertheless disrupting the automotive industry with a diverse range of cutting-edge solutions, from autonomous vehicle (AV) technology to the rise of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS).
So it’s only fitting that EcoMotion, the premier event of the smart transportation community, drew 4,000 participants and 130 startups to Tel Aviv from June 10th-13th. Entrepreneurs, investors, academics, government officials, and auto industry executives including Ford Motor Company executive chairman Bill Ford networked, showcased their latest technologies, and discussed major opportunities and challenges in transportation, including AVs, mobility in the smart city, electrification, connectivity and data, and artificial intelligence.
Home to more than 600 smart cars and transportation startups – compared to 87 in 2013 – Israel has turbocharged innovation in automotive and transportation thanks to a winning combination of advanced R&D capabilities; local ingenuity and know-how in relevant fields like big data, AI, cybersecurity, computer vision, alternative energy, and more; and a robust innovation ecosystem dedicated to accelerating promising solutions through R&D subsidies and initiatives like the Ministry of Transportation and Israel Innovation Authority’s smart mobility accelerator program.
Many of the companies to emerge from this ecosystem have become household names following headline-grabbing acquisitions and entries into global markets. Intel acquired computer vision startup Mobileye for $15.3 billion in 2017. Moovit, a public mobility platform founded in 2012, has attracted investments from Intel, BMW, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, and more. Meanwhile, leading industry players like Daimler AG and General Motors have established R&D operations in Israel.
The exhibiting startups at EcoMotion offered participants a look at which companies just might be next to put Israel’s automotive and smart transportation sectors on the map. Here’s a peek at just a few of the startups on the cutting edge:
- For AVs, effectively navigating poor weather and low-visibility conditions remains one of the biggest challenges, but TriEye’s patent-pending semiconductor technology is designed to help AVs and ADAS overcome challenges to visibility, using powerful shortwave infrared (SWIR) cameras. The company recently closed a $17 million Series A funding round led by Intel Capital, and its SWIR cameras are slated to hit the market beginning in 2020.
- Smart transportation solutions can only live up to their name if they’re operating in a smart mobility ecosystem – and that’s where Waycare comes in. Founded in 2016, the Palo Alto- and Tel Aviv-based company has developed a traffic management platform harnessing both historic and real-time data from sources including public agencies, connected car platforms, in-vehicle telematics, camera feeds, sensors, navigation apps and more. Nevada transit officials deployed the platform to optimize traffic management and reduce accidents along a busy portion of Interstate 15 near the Las Vegas Strip, resulting in a 17 percent reduction in accidents.
- Think flying cars are pure science fiction? Think again. NFT (Next Future Transportation), based in Silicon Valley and Israel, wowed EcoMotion attendees with its presentation of Aska, the company’s vertical-takeoff electric air taxi. Co-founders Guy and Maki Kaplinsky aim to begin prototype flight tests in 2020.
As Israeli innovation in transportation soars to new heights, consumers worldwide are reaping the benefits – from more sophisticated driving systems to safer roads to smarter traffic management – and the Startup Nation is just getting its engines started.