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Porsche, Goodyear invest in Israeli smart car firm Tactile Mobility

Tactile Mobility’s software uses autonomous vehicle’s existing sensors to provide it with a better grasp of road conditions; company has existing agreements with Porsche, BMW

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Startups and Business editor and reporter.

An illustrative photo of a Porsche (Panamera Turbo S-E Hybrid Executive) on a city street. (Porsche)
An illustrative photo of a Porsche (Panamera Turbo S-E Hybrid Executive) on a city street. (Porsche)

Tactile Mobility, a Haifa-based company that provides smart cars with the ability to “feel the road,” said Wednesday that it raised $27 million as part of a Series C funding round led by Israeli car importer Delek Motors, with strategic investment from Goodyear Ventures and Porsche Ventures, the venture capital arms of US multinational tire manufacturing company Goodyear and German automaker Porsche (part of the Volkswagen Group), respectively.

Founded in 2012, Tactile Mobility develops software that uses built-in non-visual sensors in smart and autonomous cars, analyzing input such as wheel speed, wheel angle, revolutions per minute, and gear position to help it “feel” the vehicle-road dynamic — the intersection between the road and the vehicle and the conditions of the road beneath its tires — like human drivers do.

Porsche previously invested in Tactile Mobility in 2019 alongside Union Tech Ventures, the technology investment arm of the Union Group. Last year, Porsche and Tactile Mobility joined forces to equip Porsche cars with the company’s software. This was followed by a similar deal with BMW Group.

The company also works with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and road authorities and municipalities in the UK, Germany, Israel, Singapore, and the US to equip them with grip maps, insights generated by vehicles with the software to “improve road safety by monitoring and measuring how roads experience different weather and atmospheric conditions.”

The Israeli company said in a statement that it will use the new funds to support the demand for its software, seek new clients in the auto industry such as insurers and tire manufacturers, deepen its offerings to include additional virtual sensors, and expand its cloud platform.

“The automotive industry is at a critical juncture in its endeavor to safely introduce the next generation of vehicles,” said Shahar Bin-Nun, CEO of Tactile Mobility. “We have the opportunity and potential to not only participate in but also shape the future of the mobility industry.”

The Tacticle Mobility team in Israel. (Tactile Mobility)

“With this funding, Tactile Mobility will be able to bring its innovative solutions to more markets, integrating our suite of virtual sensors into vehicles in new regions, and enhancing entire cities worldwide with our unparalleled insights,” he said.

Abhijit Ganguly, managing director at Goodyear Ventures, said that “connected and autonomous driving are key to the future of people and goods movement. For improved safety and efficiency of connected and autonomous driving, tire data is key. Tactile Mobility is at the forefront solving this need with their unique, software-only solution and we look forward to working together to bring this technology to vehicles and help to create safer and more efficient travel.”

Tactile Mobility was co-founded by Boaz Mizrachi, Yossi Shiri and Alex Ackerman. The company has offices in Europe, the US, and Asia.

Israel’s automotive and mobility tech space

Israel, which has no car manufacturing activities to speak of, has become an unlikely leader in technologies that look set to transform vehicles as we know them.

Tech giants like Intel (with Mobileye) and Google (with Waze) and car manufacturers including Honda, GM, Ford, Volvo, BMW and Volkswagen have invested in Israeli tech in this field, as have suppliers such as Bosch, Denso, and Continental.

CEVT, the innovation arm of Chinese carmaker Geely Holding Group, which owns and controls a wide portfolio of brands including Volvo Cars, announced that it was opening an innovation hub in Tel Aviv, last year.

And in 2019, Renault and Nissan inaugurated their open innovation lab in Israel to tap into technologies and startups, and US carmaker Ford Motor Company opened a research center, also in Tel Aviv.

Tactile Mobility’s software includes an in-vehicle module and a cloud-based module, based on crowdsourcing, that provides cars with the ability to better ‘feel the road.’ (Courtesy)

There are over 500 Israeli startups operating in the autonomous and electric vehicle and vehicle connectivity sector, according to data provided by the Economy Ministry last year.

The automotive industry is now gearing up for Smart Mobility Summit 2021, an annual conference for the transportation sector organized by the Smart Mobility Initiative, a unit of the Prime Minister’s Office that promotes smart mobility solutions. The event is set for November 8-9 in Tel Aviv.

Speakers will include Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, and Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen, as well as Mobileye founder Amnon Shashua, Google VP and head of artificial intelligence Yossi Matias, and representatives from global automotive brands.

Shoshanna Solomon contributed to this report.

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