According to CEO Barry Lunn, the world is not just living through the coronavirus pandemic, but an automotive pandemic and his company might just be the vaccine.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says each year there are over 1.35 million road deaths worldwide and over 50 million people maimed, with the cost to the global economy estimated to be over $2 trillion.
“We started Provizio to solve the global road death pandemic," Mr Lunn said.
"1.35 million to zero drives everything we do."
The Limerick start-up, which also has offices in Belfast and Pittsburgh, is now fuelled up and ready to go, having just secured €5.2m in seed investment for its five-dimensional sensory platform that uses AI to perceive, predict and prevent car accidents in real-time and beyond the line of sight.
Provizio says that today’s emergency braking systems can only measure approximately 40 metres ahead – equivalent to a one-second reaction time – at motorway speeds, but to perceive, predict and prevent accidents you need ten times the capability of these systems. That's where it's Accident Prevention Technology Platform comes in.
The Provizio team, made up of experts in robotics, AI, computer vision and radar sensor development call it their "guardian angel" platform.
Up until now, the focus of car safety measures has largely been on “a reactive basis or with prescriptive safety measures”, but “these merely minimise damage to passengers, they do not stop the crash from occurring.”
Mr Lunn believes that AI is the future of car safety and the industry's focus on autonomous or self-driving vehicles should only come after the former is solved.
“[The automative industry] should never have talked about autonomy until we could solve the problems that lead to crashes," he said. "I think that's where we really got it wrong."
"We've all had those moments where we've almost killed ourselves."
“If the technology in your car saves you, if you are about to do an overtaking manoeuvre and the steering wheel stops you and then a vehicle came against you and you go 'Oh Christ, thank God for that'. That's how you get people comfortable with autonomy.”
Clearly, it's a message that has been successful with investors. Venture Capital, industry and technology veterans such as Bobby Hambrick, the founder of Autonomous Stuff and the founders of Movidius all came in board in their recent seed investment round.
Bobby Hambrick, founder AutonomouStuff commented that it isn't often a company with "a market of this scale and a mission of this magnitude comes about."
ACT Venture Capital, who backed Lunn’s previous company Arralis, and the European Innovation Council have also come on board.
"It is tough out there to raise money at the minute,” Mr Lunn said, “but we had an awful lot of advantages. I think that's important to point out as part of the story too.”
"10 years ago it wouldn't have been easy for me to do it.”
Mr Lunn, who has experience raising funds for a number of other companies in the past, including Sensurity and Arralis, said reaching out to previous investors was a key strategy this time around.
“We did do it all over Zoom, but everyone that we spoke to was someone I had an existing relationship.”
“No one's going to write a check for someone they've never met," he said.
“My plan of attack was to talk to people I knew, people who would know the sector, who would know me, People I might have a track record with, or they were some close associate of one of those people. So they were one degree away, and that's a much easier conversion.”
Mr Lunn said he’s noticed a trend around the funding that is being announced.
“Across the board, it's bigger rounds, and it's mature companies, there's more money going into A and B rounds and things like that. There tends to be a track record where they're going in.”
"The same amount of money is still being invested but it's been consolidated into a smaller number of deals, to reduce the risks and I think that's what makes it so tough for startups right now to raise money.”
Even so, Mr Lunn was positive about today's environment.
"The number of people that just want to see you do well has gone through the roof."
"Enterprise Ireland, they just couldn't do enough for us, the car manufacturers, the tier ones, the accelerator groups that are out there that we deal with in their r&d groups and things like that, and the investors as well, everyone's got an attitude of "Is there anything I can help you with here?"
One piece of advice? "Be ready when someone asks can I help you with something."