Autonomous Vehicle

How Nisarg Pandya is targeting the future of autonomy through drivebuddyAI

Passionate about embedded systems and technology, Nisarg has always liked to be ahead of time and to delve into the technology with development and knowledge of the latest things coming in multiple domains. He was always curious about innovative products and used to explore a variety of products in the market starting with the Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns. Entrepreneurship for him was always about calculated risks. It was always people, ecosystem, growing opportunities that motivated him to go for the entrepreneur’s way. He is a strong believer in a simple mantra that if you want to go for entrepreneurship, make sure you have three things in your characteristics- Passion, Patience & Perseverance. Following this mantra not only motivated him to get into it but also to keep going for years till he tasted a small drop of success.

Inception & early phase

Nisarg Pandya (Co-founder & CEO) completed his schooling in 2008 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and finished his Bachelors in Electronics & Communication Engineer in 2012 & Master in Embedded Systems in 2014. Later on, he launched drivebuddyAI in 2018 intending to provide a technology platform in the existing vehicles which are lagging. Making something retrofit and building up the base for next-level technology. In 2016, with Google, Tesla, Intel & Uber were trying hard to beat each other in the self-driving car market in the US & also in other parts of the world, many technology startups started solving driving problems for humans and tried to make it autonomous. India was far behind the global curve but where there’s a gap, there’s also an opportunity to leapfrog and create the market.

Nisarg was that time building the camera-based driving safety hardware with computer vision & AI-based techniques and a few of his friends suggested he keep it moving as the product was the backbone of building the autonomous car platform. This triggered the journey to build the platform to learn from humans driving to cater to multiple verticals like fleet management, insurance & OEMs who’re trying to get to semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles in the coming future.

The year 2017 was a game-changer when Nisarg was shutting the shops for drivebuddy for the first attempt, Intel acquired Mobileye at a whopping $13bn, and that triggered the market. Nisarg was trying to accomplish a very small part of the market that Mobileye was operating in but still in the startup world, deals make deals. That came as the ray of hope for Nisarg & drivebuddyAI to start again and so he started again that time with more confidence.

Fundraising

Nisarg and the team managed to raise funding in 2019. The funding was led by Roadzen Inc, an insuretech company based in the US & presence across Europe, China, Japan & India building the technology stack for digitizing the insurance and bring the power of computer vision and AI into it. The match was perfect for both as both were having the same vision.

Talking about the journey so far, Nisarg says, It has been quite exciting and quite challenging. The journey with lots of struggles risks while gaining confidence with the small wins and learnings from the small failures. It started with dating co-founders to divorcing them for frequency mismatch and marching ahead with the same vision and same energy.

Nisarg used to handle the complete product involving multiple technology verticals like Hardware, Firmware, AI, cloud frontend, backend & analytics. With the help of founding and core team members, he has successfully launched the fourth version of the hardware device, third version of the cloud platform with global standard features.

It was just before the COVID lockdown when Nisarg & Team closed few critical hires after the fundraising was completed and now they were getting ready to kick-off with the product in the market.

Business during COVID-19 outbreak

Sharing his experience during the pandemic lockdown period, Nisarg says COVID lockdown thankfully earned a quite amount of time for the team who was building the one of its kind product. At the time when the world was halted to its feet, the drivebuddyAI team utilized the time to rightfully use for building the technology and take two steps to jump in a small amount of time to launch in the market early.

Team management during the pandemic was challenging for Nisarg as it was all remote, people were at different psychological levels with COVID situations in surrounding and it was the time when everyone was identified with their unique voice. DBAI also had quiet experiences where new people joined, worked, and then left and the only thing the team knew about them was their voice.

COVID had made everyone learn the importance of technology adoption and accelerated it 10x and that helped Nisarg and his team to capitalize on the situation as freight movement was the only economic activity happening at the time and it was proving the importance and position of the product into the market.

Nisarg is a strong believer that you can only lead if you know how to follow. He has working experience with three companies in the past in the Embedded Systems domain and that built the base for building the hardware, the market of vehicle tracking systems (VTS), and startup life and struggles of it. These helped Nisarg in building the team, product and taking it ahead.

Future plans

DRIVEBUDDYAI has now reached a stage of scale-up and expansion. After working for years on the technology, building a high-performance team. The company is now aiming for more than 1K deployments of their AI & CV-based hardware in the next 6-8 months and targeting to hafeelve a video analysis of 1M KMs in a month by 2022. The company has completed many pilots successfully with the indigenous hardware and AI and gaining traction in the Indian market for higher adoption for improving driving safety, driving behavior, and reducing risks for fleet management companies.

Furthermore, the company is aiming to target global markets in the latter part of 2021 and planning to mark its presence in the developed markets like the US, EU & China. drivebuddyAI is all set to learn human capabilities of fleet management, insurance underwriting & risk assessment, and driving to augment them with the world-class AI to assist humans doing the job and help the industry with more data-driven & informed decision-making to save on losses and moving towards a safer future.

Published in Telematics Wire

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