Road safety startup Zendrive raises $37 million

The funding coincides with the launch of an artificial intelligence solution that detects stop sign violations.

Zendrive, a company that uses mobile sensors to glean insights about driver behavior, has raised $37 million in Series B funding. XL Innovate led the round, announced on August 20, with participation by Hearst Ventures and existing investors, including ACME Capital, BMW iVentures, NYCA, SignalFire, and others.

With the new financing, the San Francisco-based startup will continue to build out its software platform and deepen its focus on the global insurance market.

“Zendrive was founded to make roads safe with data and analytics,” said Zendrive CEO and co-founder, Jonathan Matus. “As we enter this next phase of the business, we are excited to continue to push the innovation curve in the field forward and align with partners who are similarly committed to improving driving behavior using technology and incentives.”

Founded in 2013, Zendrive uses machine algorithms to analyze data obtained from the smartphones of drivers to provide insights for fleets seeking to improve driver performance and insurance companies eager to improve their ability to price risk. 

The company has crunched more than 180 billion miles of smartphone data to predict risk six times better than the insurance industry standard, the startup claims, and has already helped fleets reduce collision risk by 49 percent, adding millions in revenue to its partners.

A new offering builds on those successes. In tandem with the funding announcement, Zendrive is introducing an artificial intelligence solution, FullStop, that uses mobile sensors to detect stop sign violations. In the past, that capacity was only available via expensive hardware solutions like dashboard-mounted cameras, Matus told FreightWaves. “We can do it completely blind,” he said.

“By analyzing millions of drivers and billions of miles,” he explained, “we can reconstruct based on patterns where stop signs exist. Based on that knowledge, when a driver passes through that intersection, we can assess whether it is a full stop or a zoom- past stop sign.”

Zendrive’s data crunching showed that drivers who violate one stop sign per month are up to 5.8 times more likely to crash and have higher rates of T-bone and head-on collisions. 

Furthermore, traditional risky behaviors such as speeding, hard braking and sharp turns are apparently not correlated with stop sign violations. “You can have someone that is completely safe in terms of speeding and hard braking,” Matus said, “but who completely ignores stop signs and vice versa.”

Zendrive works to bring such artificial intelligence-derived analytics to the likes of ​Juno​, ​Grupo Sura​, ​AXA and other insurance industry giants. With the introduction of FullStop, Matus said, “we are surfacing a completely new way of evaluating risk that so far has not been part of risk assessments and pricing.”

Tom Hutton, who led the funding round at XL Innovate, echoed that assertion in a press release. “No one ever imagined that smartphone sensors could detect stop sign violations without dedicated hardware like dash-mounted cameras,” said Hutton, who serves as chairman, Board of Directors at SoFi and is the former CEO of Risk Management Solutions.

Zendrive’s new data science capabilities come as studies show distracted driving is increasing at an alarming rate. According to a widely-cited report Zendrive released last spring, drivers are 10 percent more distracted this year than in 2018, when the company released a similar study. The number of “phone addicts,” a demographic considered more of a public danger than drunk drivers, has doubled since last year.

Matus said these statistics fuel Zendrive’s mission. “We hope to continue to make the technology available and save lives and dollars for society and our partners,” he said.