Tier IV

Tier IV, a Japan-based driverless car software maintainer and provider, this weekannounced the closure of a round north of $100 million led by Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance, with participation from Yamaha Motor, KDDI, JAFCO, and Aisan Technology. The fresh capital brings the company’s total raised to nearly $130 million following seed rounds totaling $28 million, and founder Shinpei Kato said it’ll fuel the global commercialization and expansion of Tier IV’s self-driving technology platform.

“Tier IV has a mission to embody disruptive creation and creative disruption with self-driving technology. We have derived a solid software platform and successfully integrated it with real vehicles,” said Kato. “It is time to step forward to real services, embracing functional safety and risk management.”

Tier IV, a University of Tokyo spinout founded in December 2015, spearheads the development of Autoware, which it describes as an “all-in-one” open source and BSD-licensed solution for autonomous vehicles. The platform supports things like 3D localization and mapping, 3D path planning, object and traffic signal detection, and lane recognition, plus tasks like sensor calibration and software simulation.

Tier IV funds this development in part by selling support equipment like remote controllers and logging devices, as well as desktops and laptops with Autoware preinstalled. Additionally, it offers subscription access to its data sets, labeling tools, and deep learning training services for $1,000 per year.

Tier IV’s stated mission is to “democratize” intelligent cars by enabling “any individual or organization” to contribute to their development. To this end, it and partner companies Apex.AI and Linaro 96Boards launched the nonprofit Autoware Foundation last December, which seeks to deploy Autoware in production products and services. The Foundation counts 30 companies among its membership, and Tier IV claims that Autoware has already been adopted by more than 200 organizations around the world to date, including Udacity (for its Nanodegree Program), the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (in its CARMA platform), automotive manufacturers, and “many” self-driving startups.

Field tests of Autoware-powered cars have been conducted in over 60 regions in Japan and overseas “without incident,” according to Tier IV, and the company claims that vehicles running on its platform achieved level 4 autonomy (meaning they could operate safely without oversight in select conditions) as early as December 2017.

Tier IV competes to an extent with Baidu, which offers an open source driverless software stack of its own in Apollo. The Beijing-based tech giant claims that Apollo — which has grown to 400,000 lines of code, more than double the 165,000 lines of code the company announced in January 2018 — is now being tested, contributed to, or deployed by Intel, Nvidia, NXP, and over 156 global partners, including 60 auto brands. Notable Apollo collaborators include Chinese automobile manufacturers Chery, BYD Auto, and Great Wall, Hyundai Kia, Ford, and VM Motori.