Sibros CEO and co-founder Hemant Sikaria recently took the time to chat with me about what inspired him to start his company and solve a critical problem for a wide variety of industries. This problem, he told me, had already been solved at Tesla.
Sikaria spent five years with Tesla developing Tesla’s OTA system and has taken what he learned to solve another problem.
“I spent many years at Tesla and I was helping build the software update system in the early days, and what really inspired me to start Sibros was that I own a non-Tesla vehicle that has experienced quite a few software-related recalls, and the first set of recalls started happening in 2017. And in my family, including my brother and my parents, we have five vehicles from this manufacturer. And there were three different software-related recalls that happened over the period of 12–28 months. That’s when it got me thinking, ‘how come this problem hasn’t been solved yet when we had solved this problem many, many years ago at Tesla?’
“It’s kind of borne out of that frustration and experience but also the coincidence that I had helped build that at Tesla — I had good knowledge of what needs to be done to solve the problem — and so that’s how I embarked on the journey to start Sibros with my co-founder.”
Sikaria told me that he and his co-founder started the company in August 2018 in a shared coworking space. Today, Sibros has around 100 employees spanning across the globe. Sibros has been in business for three and a half years and recently finished raising its Series B funding round, which was $70 million. In total, he told me, they raised $85 million, and they have a wide variety of customers spanning industries with different types of vehicles.
“We expanded the scope of what we do as we learned more about the automakers and the challenges that they had. So, now our vision is to enable — really, power — the connected vehicle ecosystem. This means that we provide the end-to-end solution which includes a web portal, the backend that sits on the cloud, and the in-vehicle firmware that sits on the telematics in the hardware of the vehicle.
“By doing that, we provide an out-of-the-box solution that our customers can use. The only assumptions that we have are that the automaker already has a telematics unit in their vehicle, so we can just integrate our software onto that. Beyond that, there are no other requirements. Our system and our software are very modular, so we can deploy the same exact product on a two-wheeler like Bajaj in India as well as a luxury passenger vehicle and a truck, tractors, earthmovers, and construction equipment; the same exact platform can be deployed with a lot of different customers.”
Problems Sibros Has Solved
Sibros has several customers — including Sono Motors, Lightyear, Volta Trucks, and Bajaj Auto — as well as big-name automakers out of Detroit and Germany. Sikaria shared how the software has helped these and other customers.
He explained that for Sono Motors, Lightyear, and Volta Trucks, the Sibros platform is part of their critical infrastructure in both the vehicle and the cloud.
“We’re able to solve problems like the updating of software across the components in the vehicle, getting data from the various components in the vehicle, and filtering it down at the vehicle so that there isn’t a big cost to upload the data to the cloud, store, and analyze the data.
“A typical vehicle might generate terabytes of information per day, and the useful information might be in the order of megabytes, so if we can do that filtering and do event-driven data collection on the vehicle, we can save a lot of time and costs for our customers.”
Other services that Sibros is providing its customers are remote commands and diagnostics. This allows customers to enable user-facing functions such as locking and unlocking doors. Service teams can also use the platform to perform diagnostics on the vehicle remotely. In addition, a teleoperator can use it to give commands to an autonomous trucking fleet.
The Importance Of OTA Updates
For those who don’t have a modern vehicle, an OTA update may seem like a confusing luxury. Surely, this is what politicians who introduced bills banning them must have thought. I asked Sikaria to share his thoughts on this topic and he pointed out that it’s just not a well-known tech just yet. However, if OTA updates were to become banned, eventually the consumers would demand such an insane state law to be reversed.
“The importance of this kind of system will become more and more evident and clear for consumers because I don’t know of a single brand today that has not issued a software-related recall or multiple recalls in a year. And all of these recalls require the consumer to go to the dealership to get a software update.
“It’s the same as saying that your iPhone has a problem or needs a software update and you have to take it to the Apple Store, and that sounds crazy. Today, you can plug in your phone at night and in the morning you’ll have new software on your phone, new features, bug fixes, and security fixes, but that same thing can not happen for a vehicle. So, regardless of what the dealers or the politicians might want, I know that over time, consumers will want this. I’m sure there are people who own phones in those states and they don’t want to take them to the store to get them updated.
“Right now, they haven’t experienced that kind of issue on their cars, so they don’t know what they’re missing out on. But once they experience those pains, I think the consumers will make a huge deal out of it. I certainly do not want to go to the dealership for something that could be fixed over the air. I don’t want to call, make an appointment, and spend the time and take time out of my schedule to go there, sit there for a couple of hours, have them do the fix, and come home. I would rather press a button on my mobile app or on the touchscreen in the car that says, ‘yes, the next time I start my car, please install a software update.'”
Sikaria added that, over time, dealerships would be in favor of OTA updates as well.
“Let’s say we have a GM dealership and there are a lot of issues with the GM vehicles and they are having a lot of recalls for software updates and people are very angry as they bring their vehicles in to get them updated.
“Well, over time, the consumer base is going to lose confidence in GM and they will not buy a GM vehicle. They will go to Ford or somewhere else. So the dealership in the long run will suffer because they won’t get enough business.
“I think in the long run that everyone will come to the same conclusion but I guess it just takes time for people to understand that.
Featured image courtesy of Sibros.
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