Israel-based transit data company Moovit announced this week that it raised $50 million in a funding round led by Intel, and that it was partnering with Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based tech company that develops cutting-edge driving-assistance technologies and which was acquired last year by Intel for over $15 billion – the biggest exit by an Israeli company to date.
The details of the partnership are sparse – Moovit will incorporate its public transport data into Mobileye’s navigation system, according to a press statement – but the collaboration is expected to “improve the world’s urban mobility,” VP Head of Global Communications at Moovit Steve Swasey tells NoCamels.
Sign up for our free weekly newsletterSubscribe
The (free) Moovit app provides real-time information on the fastest public transportation routes (buses, trains and underground), is available in 44 languages and has 120 million users in 80 countries, with expectations to surpass 1 billion users by 2021. It’s commonly been referred to as the “Waze for public transport,” in reference to the Israeli-founded company that developed a crowdsourced navigation system, bought by Google in 2013 for over $1 billion.
Moovit also sells transit data analytics to municipalities and public transport operators through its Smart Transit Suite, a platform that provides real-time information on people movement, optimal routes, wait times, locations of buses and trains and other data for network managing. Moovit says it generates more than a billion movement data points a day with crowdsourcing from users and 180,000 local editors spread across the world.
Moovit also connects users to ride-sharing services such as car and bike-share systems and in 2016 integrated with share-economy giant Uber. “We see Moovit as the aggregated platform for all of these services,” Moovit CEO Nir Erez told Forbes.
In a statement this week, Erez said the company was “thrilled” about the cooperation with Mobileye, adding that it represented a “synergistic relationship at an exciting time to be shaping the future of urban mobility.”
Mobileye co-founder and CEO/CTO Amnon Shashua, who will be joining Moovit’s Board of Directors as an observer and is also senior vice president at Intel Corporation, said “the combination of Mobileye’s and Moovit’s technology and data will be instrumental in making cities ready for autonomous vehicles.” Mobileye’s sensors are set to be at the forefront of the path toward driver-less cars.
“With significant investments in automated driving, mobility management platforms and smart infrastructure, Intel is at the forefront of a fundamental transformation of urban mobility,” Shashua said. “We’re working with some of the most innovative transit companies, municipalities and transit authorities to build critical foundational technologies for this transformation.”
“Moovit is one of the world’s leaders in public transit data and analytics,” he added.
While Mobileye gathers vehicle data for navigation and collision prevention, Moovit is “aggregating a lot of statistical data about other means of transportation – public transit vehicles, buses, trains, subways, light rails, side by side with walking patterns, cycling patterns,” Erez told Forbes, suggesting that the collaboration will help “create the whole urban movement picture.”
Moovit and Mobileye share a common mission, says Gili Raanan, a general partner with Sequoia Capital in Israel, among the investors in Moovit’s funding round, and a member of Moovit’s board.
“Their partnership grew organically because they share a similar goal and that is to improve transportation, to improve mobility,” Raanan tells NoCamels.
“If you look at the way cities are built, it’s hard to change physical infrastructure, to built a bridge or a subway overnight, it’s more logical to turn to technology which adds a ‘soft layer,’ enabling people to reach their destinations,” in an optimal way, he says.
The idea for Moovit began in 2011 when Yaron Evron and Roy Bick decided that they should use mobile technology to the benefit of public transportation riders in Tel Aviv. They consulted with Erez, a serial entrepreneur, who saw the potential and the three founded Moovit the following year. The company grew quickly, raising $28 million in 2013 in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital, and another $50 million two years later, all the while amassing millions of users on its app and developing consumer products.
As transport options have evolved, now encompassing shared bikes, mini-vans, buses, rickshaws and so on, Moovit has seized on the opportunity and expanded on it, says Raanan.
Moovit, and Mobileye, also plug in well into the vision for “smart cities,” he adds in reference to the much-touted idea that cities and municipalities will integrate innovative technologies including data sensors, artificial intelligence, algorithms and cloud-based tech, to manage and monitor city operating systems like power plants, transportation grids, water supply networks, and waste management services among others.
In this sphere, Mobileye developed the Shield+ for transit vehicles, a sensor that monitors for collision threats and provides alerts for when pedestrians or cyclists are in bus’s blind spots or danger zones The alerts are added to a dashboard for analytics into city-wide safety. The company, which maintains Jerusalem operations, also participated in two rounds of the US Department of Transportation “Smart City Challenge” in 2016 and 2017.
Cities with strong data collection and mapping services, like the type Moovit provides, are likely to be among the first to adopt fully autonomous vehicles, according to industry leaders.
Hillel Fuld, a strategic advisor to Israeli startups and a tech writer, says the Moovit-Mobileye partnership is a “strategic deal looking at next-generation transportation.”
“The transportation industry hasn’t really evolved,” he tells NoCamels, “and the whole advent of the autonomous vehicle is a huge leap forward.”
Fuld says the $50 million investment by Intel and other partners, as well as the announced collaboration, is a “win-win-win for everyone involved,” pointing also to the caliber of the investors, many of them international firms.
It’s a testament to Moovit, he says, that all of its earlier investors including BMW iVentures, Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Gemini, NGP, BRM, Vaizra and Vintage were part of the latest funding round, which brings Moovit’s total in raised capital to over $133 million in six years.
Moovit’s Erez said the company will use the funds to grow the company on “its mission to be part of every urban mobility trip.”