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(Photo: Allianz)

BMW and Toyota Motor have teamed up with insurer Allianz to invest in Nauto, a Californian startup company that has developed technology to accelerate the auto industry's drive to develop autonomous cars.

Nauto's system, which lets fleet vehicles become part of a self-learning network, consists of an in-vehicle camera and sensor hardware, a smart network and a continous learning cloud. These combine to provide a full, contextual picture of a car and offer insights into driver behavior.

Nauto CEO and co-founder Stefan Heck said in a press release that, for autonomous driving to become reality, new-mobility stakeholders "will need a much clearer picture of how drivers behave, and how drivers interact with each other and their environment."

Heck added that this will require a high degree of cooperation between automakers and other new-mobility players.

BMW sees Nauto playing an important role in its new-mobility plans. "BMW will benefit from insights gained from Nauto's continuous learning network as part of our autonomous development efforts," said Ulrich Quay, who heads the premium carmaker's venture capital arm, BMW i Ventures.

Toyota, the other automotive investor, is participating in the company through its newly founded Toyota Research Institute. The unit announced in January that it planned to invest 1 billion dlrs over five years in artificial intelligence and robotics,

"What Nauto is developing is very much aligned with Toyota Research Institute's own commitment to developing safe, reliable mobility systems," said TRI CEO Gill Pratt. He added that he expected the tie-up with Nauto to speed up the company's research on deep-learning systems.

For Allianz, the prospect of getting deeper insight into driver behavior opens up possibilities of more sophisticated pay-as-you-drive car insurance packages. Solmaz Altin, chief digital officer of Allianz said in a press release that Naut0's technology could revolutionize the car insurance business.

Nauto was co-founded in 2015 by Heck, a former McKinsey consultant. The company earlier this year received 12 million dlrs in venture capital funding.