This post is part of our Future of Smart Cities series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Eran Shir, CEO and Co-founder of Nexar.
1. What’s the history of Nexar? Where and how did you begin?
ES: I met Bruno, Nexar’s co-founder, several years ago during our time at Yahoo when he became my boss. We had a blast working together, building global-scale systems and products. I spent three years at Yahoo starting in late 2010 as the Head of the Creative Innovation Center (CIC) after the acquisition of my previous startup, Dapper. Bruno and I wanted to take the massive advancements achieved in the realms of deep learning, sensor fusion, and networking and apply them to make the roads safer.
When we came across the NHTSA-driven initiative to create a vehicle-to-vehicle network, we saw an opportunity to create a solution that would enhance the safety of the 1.25 billion vehicles around the world today, and start saving lives. We started Nexar in 2015 and our V2V network was launched and started preventing collisions on the road in November 2016.
2. What specific problem does Nexar solve? How do you solve it?
ES: More than 1.2 million people die on the road every year. This is a huge problem that Nexar can solve with currently available technology, even before the arrival of autonomous vehicles.
Nexar was created with the goal of eliminating car crashes and making our roads safer, not in a few years, but now. Nexar accomplishes this by using all the sensors on a smartphone and our free app to provide drivers with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and to fuel AI-powered safe driving network which gives advance warnings about upcoming hazards on the road. In effect, we’re digitizing the public space, predicting and preventing collisions in real-time.
3. What’s the future of smart cities?
ES: Though we suspect that autonomous vehicles are decades (not 5-10 years) away, municipalities and cities need to start thinking about how to better plan and design our urban spaces to be ready for this technological revolution. Highly concentrated urban centers will simply have to change if they want to survive this revolution. There are three areas that will be impacted: city planning, parking lots, and roads.
Prediction #1: In regards to city planning, suburbs that may have been viewed as distant and far from urban life may become more attractive as commuting becomes easier. This could recharge areas and lead to greater educational and economic investment in these areas as people are no longer turned off by long commutes.
Prediction #2: In regards to parking in cities, there will need to be a multi-pronged approach. These include stratified rush hours for those who will still need to travel into and work from city centers. Another could be the expansion of city transit plans to include ridesharing options — especially in cities that lack more accessible networks or neighborhood coverage. AVs won’t be limited by our ability to park, so we could also see the emergence of highly packed, automated parking lots with the ability to squeeze in a lot more vehicles than we can today.
Prediction #3: Finally, the paths of transport into cities will need to change dramatically. We see two possibilities: cities need to expose the externalities of using the road and start charging money for the use of roads dynamically, and cities need to (re)plan their roads to dramatically increase maximum lane occupancy. In short, we need to move from thinking about the future of mobility from the perspective of the individual car, to a more holistic, systems approach, where we are optimizing the entire city, rather than continuing the random walk that is today’s roads.
4. What is the top technology trend shaping cities of the future?
ES: The most important technology trend shaping cities is the convergence of commoditized sensors, in particular, cameras, and deep learning, allowing for real-time sensing, perception, and understanding of everything going on in a city. This basic trend has unbound repercussions which we, as a society, need to address head on. It will totally transform how we think of urban living, whether it’s in terms of safety, privacy, collaboration, and many other aspects of the human condition.
About Eran Shir
Eran Shir is the co-founder and CEO of Nexar, an artificial intelligence dashcam application that seeks to rid the world of car crashes. Nexar is a vehicle-to-vehicle network connecting cars nearby; it can warn its users in real-time of dangerous situations happening beyond each individual driver’s line of sight, such as issuing a forward collision warning, effectively giving drivers more time to react.
Prior to founding Nexar at the beginning of 2015, Shir was the entrepreneur in residence at Aleph, a Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm, where he focused on big-data, crypto-currencies, and market disruption. He also was the senior director and head of the creative innovation center at Yahoo!, where he was responsible for their creative advertising technologies strategy and portfolio, as well as the development of their next generation personalized creative advertising platform.