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Driverless tech startup Nauto has hired execs from Microsoft and Alphabet

The company is looking to expand its business — both globally and with new partnerships.

Jessica Haroon, VP of business dev and ops, and Sanket Akerkar, SVP of global fleets and insurance.
Jennifer Haroon, VP of business dev and ops, and Sanket Akerkar, SVP of global fleets and insurance.

Fresh off a monster round of funding, driverless tech startup Nauto is looking to continue to scale both its geographic operations and its partnerships. To lead that charge, the company — which outfits commercial fleets with accident-detection devices — just hired two executives from Microsoft and Alphabet’s self-driving arm Waymo.

Waymo’s former head of business Jennifer Haroon and Microsoft’s former vice president of global enterprise sales are joining Nauto to lead its global and commercial growth.

Nauto, which recently raised $159 million from major firms like Greylock and Softbank, already has several automaker partnerships under its belt including with some of its investors General Motors, BMW, and Toyota.

Haroon, who will fill a similar role as vice president of corporate development and business operations, will help the company strike new partnerships, acquisitions and manage the rest of the company’s business team.

Under Haroon, who was Waymo’s first business hire, Waymo struck deals with Fiat Chrysler, Lyft, and Avis — experience that will prove valuable as Nauto hopes to continue to work with more automakers.

While Nauto is primarily focused on making professional drivers safer with its aftermarket device that uses an inward-facing camera to detect things like distracted driving, the company has already started working with its automaker partners to begin developing the deep-learning algorithms that will enable the cars to drive autonomously.

In partnership with Nauto, these companies will use the driver behavior, accident, road and safety data that the devices — which have been deployed in “dozens of fleets” and some of the automakers’ development cars or car-sharing fleets — are collecting to eventually inform the autonomous system.

Akerkar is joining Nauto as the SVP of global fleets and insurance. Akerkar was mostly recently the vice president of Microsoft’s global enterprise sector.

His role at Nauto, which develops devices that also help insurance companies better assess circumstances around accidents, will be to lead the expansion of the company’s fleet and insurance businesses across North America, Japan and Europe.

The idea is that by using the inward- and outward-facing cameras on Nauto’s second-generation device, the company’s software can detect whether the driver is distracted (by capturing images of the driver’s eyes, chest and head) as well as what is happening on the road.

For now, Nauto aims to get its aftermarket technology into as many cars as possible via fleet and insurance partnerships in the hope that it will help the company gather a richer data set that can later serve as the brains of autonomous vehicles.

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