MIT Spin-Off Superpedestrian Raises $20 Million To Mass Produce Transportation Robotics

By Amit Chowdhry ● Nov 21, 2019
  • Superpedestrian, transportation robotics company that spun out of MIT, announced it raised $20 million in funding

Superpedestrian — a transportation robotics company that spun out of MIT — announced it raised $20 million in funding to support the rollout of its ultra-safe scooter fleet, now in mass production. The investors in this round include Spark Capital, General Catalyst, Hanaco Ventures, and Empire Angels. Including this round of funding, the company has raised a total of $64 million.

The fleet features Superpedestrian’s proprietary Vehicle Intelligence technology and the new scooters are able to detect and protect against more than 100 common malfunctions within nanoseconds.

As safety and reliability are major concerns for riders and cities, fleet operators must frequently repair, charge, and replace vehicles. These costs can be make-or-break for operators. And since its inception, the scooter-sharing industry has primarily focused on mechanical and connectivity improvements — which have provided insufficient gains. And with cities now tightening safety requirements and operators seeking to show a path to profitability, the need for dramatic improvements in vehicle and fleet technology has become even more pressing.

Superpedestrian has invested over 5 years in developing its Vehicle Intelligence platform – which is a unified system of embedded computers and proprietary software that controls everything on the vehicle, including the batteries, motor, data encryption, communication as well as decision-making. And with this platform, the new scooters instantly detect hundreds of events that can cause malfunction, triage each issue, and determine the appropriate response to prevent the issue from causing damage to the vehicle, and consequently the rider. These new scooters were designed to address the most common problems in the scooter-sharing industry.

These examples include battery fires, braking issues, vehicle availability/reliability, speed and and parking management.

Vehicle failures are known for causing battery fires, including water penetration, cut internal wires, and battery cell temperature imbalances and Superpedestrian prevents these failures by detecting short circuits throughout the vehicle and electronically disconnecting the battery before damage is caused.

Braking has been a continuous issue in the industry with vehicles braking too slowly or losing electronic braking unexpectedly when the battery is unable to handle the regenerative power such as when going downhill and Superpedestrian’s scooters brake over 60% shorter distances compared to other scooters.

In terms of vehicle availability and reliability, Superpedestrian’s scooter remains safely operational for over 2,500 shared rides – 10x the industry average. Plus Superpedestrian’s scooters store all city rules on-board to enforce speed and parking limits in under 1 second.

“Scooter operators today don’t engineer the key electronic systems in their vehicles; instead they source off-the-shelf hardware, giving them almost no control over vehicle functionality. This prevents them from detecting and addressing issues of vehicle safety and reliability at the core,” said Superpedestrian advisor and former Lyft and Lime policy executive Emily Castor Warren. “With safety as a paramount concern in the minds of riders and city leaders, operators must rise to the challenge by deploying safer, self-sustaining vehicles. Superpedestrian is the only company today that engineers all vehicle control systems from the ground up, creating a scooter that can protect riders if something goes wrong and deliver the product quality city leaders expect.”

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Superpedestrian was spun out of MIT. And Superpedestrian also designs and manufactures complete vehicles integrated with Vehicle Intelligence, including e-bikes, e-scooters, and more. Superpedestrian sells its products to fleet operators worldwide along with access to its comprehensive fleet maintenance software.

“We see great need as the scooter industry evolves and operators seek fleet technologies that provide substantial improvements in safety and reliability,” added Assaf Biderman, founder and CEO of Superpedestrian. “The autonomous capabilities of our scooters enable us to offer a fleet solution that sets a new safety standard. At the same time, our platform allows our operator partners to achieve new levels of operational efficiency and drive toward sustainable growth.”