City simulator wins Venture capital backing as investors seek driverless car exposure

LONDON (Reuters) - Venture capital investors backed Immense Simulations, a British software company which creates interactive replicas of cities, on Tuesday in the latest sign of money pouring into firms that stand to gain from driverless vehicles becoming more mainstream.

Immense Simulations raised $4.6 million in its Series A funding round co-led by British venture capital firm Amadeus Capital Partners and Japan’s Global Brain Corporation.

The deal underscores the global focus on shifting mobility which has driven massive venture capital investment. Some $3.1 billion had been raised this year already by companies in the autonomous driving space, according to CB Insights data.

Immense sells its simulation software to carmakers and autonomous vehicle outfits seeking to test their plans for fleets of autonomous cars and run scenarios in a model city as similar as possible to the real thing.

Using data from mobile phone operators combined with public transport and telematics databases, Immense makes simulations of cities which aim to show where and how people and vehicles might be moving on any given day.

The company’s clients include big U.S. carmakers and autonomous vehicle specialists, co-founder and CEO Robin North told Reuters in an interview. He declined to name the firms, citing non-disclosure agreements.

Immense has partnered with companies including British taxi firm Addison Lee, and worked on research and development with U.S. auto company Ford, Tata Motors-owned carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, and Germany’s Bosch.

London, Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, and Cambridge in Britain are among the cities Immense has built simulations of in collaboration with local authorities and transport companies including Transport for London.

In North America the company created simulations of San Francisco, Chicago, and Montreal for clients and for public demonstrations.

Immense also built a simulation of Barcelona as part of a project on last-mile delivery in collaboration with Spain’s Ferrovial and the City of Barcelona.

The company, with 24 employees, has office space in Silicon Valley, at mobility tech incubator PlanetM in Detroit, Michigan, and in Barcelona. It is incorporated in the United States, Britain and Spain.

“With the backing of investors such as Amadeus with expertise in the mobility software sector, and the international perspective of Global Brain, we can capture the growing market for intelligent transport solutions,” said North.

Reporting by Helen Reid, editing by David Evans