Welcome to Silicon Wadi: Israel’s mobility start-ups take off
Real-time data analysis for improved traffic flows, medical checks as you drive and air taxis used as flying ambulances: Israel's start-up scene is causing a sensation worldwide with spectacular innovations in the mobility sector. We present a selection of them. Photo © Dan Golf/Unsplash
Welcome to Silicon Wadi! That's the name given to the vibrant start-up scene in Tel Aviv, named after its American forerunner Silicon Valley in the California Bay Area. For some years, Israel has ranked amongst the world's leading high-tech locations, and it is making a name for itself as a hot-spot for innovations, digital technologies, new mobility services and car IT. With a population of 8.8 million, the country boasts over 6,500 start-ups. Every year around 1,000 to 1,500 new companies join them, and the per capita investment volume is the highest in the world.
Things are also happening in the mobility scene: Over ten percent of start-ups are developing ideas connected to mobility. For that reason, even large car manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have long been paying attention to Israel. In 2017, Škoda established an offshoot of its DigiLab in Tel Aviv. Since 2019, BMW has likewise had an established presence there, with a technology office. And these are just a few examples. The exceptional ideas from these mobility start-ups are wide-ranging:
100-kilometer range in five minutes
The Israeli technology company Storedot is working on developing extreme fast charging (XFC) batteries, as a way of solving the problem of "range anxiety". The term refers to the fear amongst e-car drivers that they will run out of electricity on long drives before reaching their destination. Whereas a car with a combustion engine can quickly be refueled if the tank is almost empty, the battery charging procedure for an electric car takes a lot longer - at least, with the technology available today. The start-up, founded in 2012, has acquired investors including the Stuttgart-based car manufacturer Daimler and the British oil group BP. At the start of 2021, Storedot unveiled its "XFC FlashBattery". The special feature of this battery is that it contains nano-materials and patented organic substances. It can be charged for a range of 100 kilometers within five minutes. The new battery technology is set to launch on our roads in 2025.
The car as chillout zone
The start-up Silentium is focusing on optimizing the driving experience. To keep road noise out of the interior and to protect the car's occupants against unwanted noise, the company uses ultra-modern software and the noise canceling principle we are familiar with from headphones. The car records the sounds of the traffic and the road and sends them to a control unit running Silentium's "Active Acoustics" software. A noise canceling signal is then transmitted into the interior of the car, using the sound system's speakers. These frequencies suppress up to 90 percent of road noise, thus ensuring the car is a chilled and restful space. A further benefit of this technology is that it reduces the heavy and expensive insulating material used in building the car, and thus saves on costs. Moreover, it is possible to restrict the music to each individual seat. That is a real benefit, particularly on trips with the whole family. Everyone can listen to their own music without the others hearing it.
A focus on driver health
The start-up CU-BX is similarly concerned with the physical wellbeing of the car's occupants. The camera developed by the company carries out a medical check as the car is being driven. It uses an optical sensor to measure heart rate and blood pressure, amongst other things. The data collected is analyzed in the company's own Health Cloud, using AI. This permits conclusions to be drawn regarding the driver's stress level and wellbeing, as well as generating detailed information about the driver's health status. In addition, the software can also be an aid to greater safety, since it can recognize a driver's increasing tiredness and warn the driver in good time.
Using AI in the search for a parking space
Data is similarly the focus for the start-up Anagog. The company's software analyzes patterns of movement using sensors integrated in smartphones, and also uses this data to predict future movement scenarios. This is similarly an application where artificial intelligence is employed. It provides useful insights for improved traffic management, assistance in searching for a parking space, or personalized insurance offers. Investors include Daimler and Škoda.
The start-up Otonomo, founded in 2015, gathers and analyzes vehicle data. Via its cloud-based platform, it makes this information available to manufacturers, automotive suppliers, insurance companies, local authorities and mobility start-ups.
Head in the clouds? As if!
The taxi's car doors open, you get in and lift off. Sounds like science fiction? No, that could very soon be a reality. The start-up Urban Aeronautics is currently developing a flying taxi. The prototype of the electric-powered VTOL CityHawk flew in summer 2018 – although back then, it still had a hybrid powertrain. In 2020 Urban Aeronautics went into partnership with the Californian start-up HyPoint, which is making an innovative fuel cell available. In future, this should provide greater power and offer a longer lifetime than conventional fuel cells. The propellers on the flying taxi are located in front of and behind the passenger cell, in the bodywork and not on the roof, as we are used to on helicopters. Urban Aeronautics is planning various areas of application for its flying taxi: In addition to passenger transport, it can also be used as a flying ambulance. So far, the start-up has accomplished over 300 test flights, and it is already looking ahead to the first commercial flights in 2025.
Mobileye: Using camera-based assistant systems to become a market-leader
Mobileye develops driver assist systems based on optical technologies. The aim is to use warnings to reduce the severity of possible collisions, or even to avoid them entirely. The company was founded in 1999 and equips Audi and BMW vehicles, amongst others. In total, Mobileye has over 25 car manufacturers as partners. In 2020, Mobileye was even given permission to test self-driving cars on German roads, and it is working with various manufacturers to bring this technology to our streets soon. From Silicon Wadi to Europe!
Large number of Israeli exhibitors at IAA MOBILITY 2021
In Munich, you could experience many Israeli companies and their innovations, including:
City Transformer: A city runaround which can slim itself down when necessary and fits into any gap – that is probably the dream of any city-dweller when hunting for a parking space. At IAA MOBILITY, the Israeli start-up City Transformer was exhibiting its solution: A car with an innovative folding mechanism. It enables the City Transformer to shrink down from the size of a normal car to the width of a motorbike. What’s more, it is a pure electric vehicle – and is superbly connected, making it perfectly suitable for fleet use too. The basic model is set to cost around USD 13,000 (EUR 11,000) and can already be pre-ordered, for a down-payment of USD 180 (around EUR 152).
Cipia: For better and safer car journeys, Cipia offers systems to monitor the car interior. How many passengers are on board, and do they all have their seat belts on? Is the driver distracted, smoking, playing on their mobile, or possibly fatigued? Or are loose bags placed on the rear seating, is there a child seat on board? The system is based on using an edge-processed camera view and Artificial Intelligence, which selects the data. Solutions are also available to suit the requirements of fleet operators and telematics solutions providers.
Innoviz: Lidar sensors help cars to orient themselves – thereby enabling autonomous driving. Innoviz offers these sensors in combination with software solutions which are able to recognize and categorize objects with the aid of Artificial Intelligence, without requiring extremely high processing power.
Upstream Security: It is a precondition of self-driving, connected cars that their software is secure. Upstream Security has developed the first Cloud-based security platform. The C4 platform was developed specifically for protecting connected vehicles and smart mobility services against cyberattacks or misuse, both when parked up and when traveling. It is based on a multi-layer security architecture already registered for patent, thereby establishing the most comprehensive cybersecurity detection in the automotive sector.
Gauzy: A windshield that can be reflective when needed to ensure privacy, or with the option to tint the glass in strong sunshine and keep out the heat as a result (and save on energy for the air-conditioning system) – or ultra-thin displays on the windshield: Gauzy’s LCG glass technology makes all this possible.
Also exhibiting were: Self-healing software for connected cars from Aurora Labs, car-to-car communications technology from Autotalks, simulations software for autonomous and advanced driver assist systems from Cognata, and a system for air quality management in car interiors and a better in-cabin experience from Crispify.
All these examples show that the Israeli start-up scene lacks for nothing compared with the innovative minds in Silicon Valley. On the contrary - we can be very excited about the thrilling ideas that lie in store for us!