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EasyMile, a French developer of autonomous vehicles, raised $66 million (€55 million) in Series B funding. The funds will help it scale deployments of autonomous vehicles in closed-campus environments. The oversubscribed round will also allow EasyMile to invest in its long-term strategy of deploying autonomous shuttles on public transportation networks.
The Series B round was led by Searchlight Capital Partners, with McWin and NextStage AM also contributing. All of the company’s earlier investors also participated in the round. According to Crunchbase, EasyMile has raised about $82 million since it was founded in 2014.
EasyMile claims to have a 60% share of the autonomous shuttle market with 180-plus vehicles deployed worldwide. The company’s vehicles include the EZ10 autonomous shuttle and TractEasy, an autonomous tow tractor for material handling in indoor and outdoor logistics. One of its biggest competitors, Navya, is also based in France. Optimus Ride and May Mobility are two well-known U.S.-based developers of autonomous shuttles.
EasyMile did have a setback last year with its autonomous shuttles. In late February 2020, a passenger in one of the Level 4 shuttles fell out of her seat during a sudden stop in Columbus, Ohio. At the time of the incident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suspended EasyMile from giving rides to passengers.
However, the NHTSA recently approved EasyMile to resume passenger operations in the U.S. A plan was developed to increase passenger awareness of stops, including adding seat belts and more signage in the shuttles, making audio announcements and enhancing safety operator training. According to its website, the EZ10 is currently being trialed in the U.S. at 10 locations around Salt Lake City and at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
“We have stayed focused on what we can deliver in a reasonable timeframe and partnered with leaders in niche markets that are addressable now,” said EasyMile founder and CEO Gilbert Gagnaire. “The participation of all of EasyMile’s earlier investors in the round is a strong vote of confidence in our expansion plan, and we are very happy to welcome Searchlight, McWin and NextStage and look forward to accelerating our growth thanks to their expertise.”
In other autonomous vehicle news, Lyft sold its self-driving unit, Level 5, to Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet Holdings earlier this week for $550 million in cash. Lyft said the sale better positions it to become profitable. It will now focus on partnering with self-driving companies that want to deploy their technology on its platform, rather than develop the costly technology itself.
Lyft launched Level 5 in 2017 and said that by 2021 “a majority” of its rides would take place in autonomous vehicles. Like predictions made by other autonomous vehicle companies, Lyft’s never came to fruition.