It’s not Apple or Tesla, but Inrix has data from 500 million vehicles

It’s not Apple or Tesla, but Inrix has data from 500 million vehicles

It’s not Apple or Tesla, but Inrix has data from 500 million vehicles

Cars and trucks drive along the Cross Bronx Expressway, an infamous stretch of New York City highway that is often choked by traffic and contributes to pollution and poor air quality on Nov. 16, 2021 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

In this weekly series, CNBC looks at companies that made it to the first Disruptor 50 list 10 years later.

Transportation has been a big part of the CNBC Disruptor 50 list since its inception in 2013, and some of the original transportation disruptors have become household names.

This includes Waze, at the time an Israeli GPS start-up with little brand recognition in the US compared to Garmin or TomTom, which was acquired by Google for more than $1 billion and has long become critical to avoiding speeding tickets and knowledge of the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts. Uber, despite its stock battle, has undeniably changed basic ideas about urban mobility. And SpaceX, which is taking the transportation disruption to its most ambitious goals.

But another name on that original D50 list remains less known to the public, but it’s an important link in planning the future of transportation: Inrix.

The company, now nearly two decades old (it was founded in 2004), remains under the radar, but its reach in understanding the complexities and challenges in transportation is growing. TomTom is also still a competitor. When Inrix, located outside of Seattle in Kirkland, Washington, was launched, a pressing issue was the fact that the world still relied on helicopters to control traffic. “That was state-of-the-art to figure out what was going on,” said Bryan Mistele, CEO and co-founder, and former president of Microsoft and Ford.

Now, operating in more than 60 countries and several hundred cities, Inrix collects aggregated, anonymous data from 500 million vehicles, mobile devices, mobile apps, parking operators, mobile carriers, and smart meters, all in real time, for both consumers and vehicles. fleet, and is being introduced into a system that will appeal to public authorities and transport planners rethinking urban mobility.

This week Apple played its CarPlay tech at WWDC, and it would be nice to have Siri adjust the temperature in your car one day, but Inrix has a range of tasks on its to-do list, from reducing the climate footprint of urban traffic through such as optimizing the timing of traffic lights, plotting the operation of autonomous robotic axes in cities, picking up and dropping off passengers and finding their own parking space when needed.

The core mission of the company has not changed: its intelligent mobility, based on GPS data. Mining GPS data from cars and phones helped the company get off the ground and for clients like IBM, Amazon and automakers. The biggest changes since the early days are moving beyond the core data to a software-as-a-service model, and that model is being adopted by the largest growing customer segment: cities like New York and London and other geographic areas around the world including Dubai .

No crashes, no carbon, no traffic

Inrix continues to work closely with many private sector clients, including auto giants such as BMW and GM. In fact, one of the most recent deals is a cloud-based software company with GM that overlaps with one of government agencies’ biggest goals: reducing accidents and fatalities. Inrix and GM use data from GM vehicles on airbag deployment, hard braking and seat belt use, as well as from the US Census, as part of a data dashboard for city planners with a “Vision Zero” goal: no fatalities.

“1.3 million people die in accidents every year,” Mistele said.

Those numbers have also risen in recent years, particularly in the US, reaching a record high in 2021.

The recent approval of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIL) includes about $5 billion in discretionary funds as part of the Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant program, which will help the public sector address the problem.

“Roadway analytics is a big area of ​​revenue growth,” Mistele said. “There is a huge amount of money flowing into the public sector from the infrastructure account,” he said.

Traffic data software-as-a-service now accounts for as much as 30% of total business and is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 40%.

The “zero” vision also overlaps with the goal of making transport CO2 neutral and reducing the number of accidents, ultimately through autonomous vehicle use.

About a year ago, Inrix launched a traffic light timing product, which has shown a 7% reduction in congestion in pilot cities such as Austin, Texas “by doing nothing but optimizing traffic lights,” Mistele said. The Florida Department of Transportation has also adopted the technology. “Every second of deceleration is 800,000 tons of carbon, or 175,000 vehicles,” he said.

While fully self-driving and autonomous urban mobility has progressed more slowly than the most ambitious forecasts, things are moving forward, and last week GM’s self-driving robot taxi company Cruise received approval in San Francisco.

“We are big proponents of ‘ACES’,” Mistele said, referring to “autonomous, connected, electric, shared” vehicles. The transition to a mobility-as-a-service model will increasingly be linked to the emergence of autonomous transport. “Instead of driving into a city and parking for eight hours, in most urban areas you will see mobility as a service and shared,” he said. “How do you do it? By giving vehicles better information,” he added.

He is convinced that ‘ACEs’ and robotaxis will make transport safer, but that will require them to receive data on everything from road closures to parking lots. “We are mapping these urban areas meter by meter… curb management will become more complex,” he said.

According to Mistele, while there’s always a lot of hype with new technology and a “coming back to reality” era, the advances made by companies like Cruise and Waymo in the robotic axi space and Nuro in robo-delivery of consumer goods like pizza , the implementations now taking place in cities, and the growing production of autonomous vehicles, lead him to believe that in the next decade this will be a transport model that will be used in most prime urban areas.

“I don’t think we’ll see it across the US, in rural areas where there’s no need or use cases. But EVs and autonomous driving, and moving more towards mobility-as-a-service, will be ubiquitous,” he said. .

More coverage of the 2022 CNBC Disruptor 50

There was a moment at the beginning of the pandemic when the world literally stopped moving that Inrix was concerned about his business, but it didn’t last long. In fact, Mistele says the radical changes in mobility patterns never seen before March 2020 have increased the need for planners, whether public transport or business, to better understand vehicle data, and it was the pandemic moment that became crucial. for its pivot to a software-as-a-service model.

He said, for example, that more than ever before, companies in the tire industry had to analyze mileage data — the No. 1 variable in that niche — to determine consumer demand and appropriate levels of production. And in retail, companies were trying to understand traffic patterns and whether they should close stores or move to new locations.

Inrix’s data also has less obvious uses, such as in financial services, where hedge funds want to know how many people visit a car dealership, what happens in a retail distribution center, and traffic to and from ports, especially with the supply chain below. great pressure during the pandemic.

The company today has 1,300 customers in its growing public sector, private enterprise business, including companies as diverse as IBM’s The Weather Channel and Chick-fil-A, and the automotive sector.

Inrix has been profitable for most of its history, operating on its own cash flow since 2005-2007. “Some years growth is better than others,” Mistele said, and the customer ratio may change — with new use cases emerging during the pandemic and car sales dropping a few years before a major rebound — but the company is growing at double digits. on an annual basis.

And after nearly twenty years as a private company — with its largest investors including venture capital firm Venrock, August Capital and Porsche — it nearly pulled the trigger for an initial public offering before closing the IPO market. Over a recent six-month period, it had worked “very hard” on an IPO transaction and was very close to filing the securities documents. “We even reserved the ticker,” Mistele said. “We were ready to leave, but the market collapsed after Russia invaded Ukraine,” he said.

One of the oldest Disruptors is stuck with its exit strategy for now, but Mistele said it will evaluate the market every few months.

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