SoftBank Vision Fund Pours $500M Into Cambridge Mobile Telematics

Xconomy Boston — 

Last month, Xconomy asked tech CEOs what $100 million in venture capital can buy. How about $500 million?

Cambridge Mobile Telematics said Wednesday morning it has pulled in half a billion dollars in an investment from—you guessed it—the SoftBank Vision Fund. That’s Japan-based SoftBank Group’s reportedly $100 billion fund that has made waves in the venture capital world by cutting massive checks to companies across a variety of sectors.

Now, the fund has thrown its weight behind Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), which emerged in 2010 from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. In a press release, the Cambridge, MA-based company said its products are used in more than 20 countries to help measure driving performance to inform the pricing of auto insurance plans, provide incentives to drivers to operate vehicles more safely, and to automate some tasks in insurance claims processing.

Those products include software that uses smartphone sensors to measure distracted driving and gather other data that can be used in insurance pricing, and tools that use gamification techniques to encourage better driving. CMT also sells connected devices that get installed in vehicles and can send out real-time alerts when a crash occurs, and can measure vehicle performance for actuarial scoring. CMT’s customers include insurers, wireless carriers, and managers of vehicle fleets.

CMT’s products have “helped make roads safer by making drivers better in a world where crashes are rising due to factors like distracted driving,” said Hari Balakrishnan, CMT’s chairman, chief technology officer, and co-founder, in a prepared statement. “This partnership with the Vision Fund is the start of the next stage of our journey to bring safe mobility solutions for people and goods at massive scale.”

The company said it will use the new capital to further develop its products and pick up more customers.

CMT is part of a shift toward “usage-based” auto insurance that prices premiums based on how people drive. The idea is to track driver behavior more accurately using smartphones and other connected devices, and encourage safer driving, which will ideally reduce accidents and lower insurance premiums. Other startups in this sector include TrueMotion (formerly known as Censio), also located in the Boston area.