Potential Motors secures $2 million to commercialize terrain-perception software for off-road vehicles

After years of R&D, Potential says it is ready to take its core tech to market.

Fredericton, New Brunswick-based AutoTech startup Potential Motors has closed another $2 million CAD in seed funding, largely from existing investors, to fuel its commercialization efforts.

Founded in 2018, Potential builds advanced driver-assistance systems for vehicles in off-road environments that use computer vision and artificial intelligence to read the path ahead. 

After years of research and development, Potential is gearing up to commercialize its core terrain-perception tech for the automotive, power sports, mining, and defence sectors, as it progresses toward “production-scale” deployment. 

This funding will support both new and ongoing innovation projects with automotive manufacturers.

“We raised this round to execute on the commercial traction that we’ve been able to gather over the last year,” Potential co-founder and CEO Sam Poirer told BetaKit. “We have built an incredible team, and surrounded ourselves with experts and with this funding are well set up to move these projects through from the innovation stage to pre-production.”

This all-equity round, which closed in April, marks Potential’s second extension to its initial $2.5-million seed financing in 2020 and comes just over two years after the firm closed a $4-million extension to that round. 

This latest capital comes from returning backers Brightspark Ventures, Build Ventures, and the New Brunswick Innovation Fund, plus new investor Farpointe. It brings Potential’s total seed financing and total overall funding to $8.5 million, from a group that also includes Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s Time Ventures.

Poirer acknowledged it was challenging fundraising amid the market downturn but claimed that Potential is happy with the result. He declined to disclose whether this seed extension included any secondary capital, or share Potential’s latest valuation, but did indicate that this was an up round relative to the company’s previous financing.

Potential’s core software platform, Terrain Intelligence, aims to address safety and performance problems both on the road and beyond. It uses forward-facing sensors like cameras to interpret terrain shape, incline gradient, surface type, obstacles, and other environmental factors.

Terrain Intelligence then either presents this data to drivers to inform decision-making or automatically selects various vehicle control adjustments. These include drive mode, suspension and differential settings, and torque levels.

RELATED: Potential Motors closes $4 million CAD to improve off-road EV performance

Compared to existing driver-assistance systems, which Potential says rely on reactive tech, its solution claims to enable “proactive control” ahead of any hazards. In 2022, Potential was named Most Innovative Startup at InnovateNB’s first awards event.

“The value we can add to vehicles is clear, because most vehicles today rely on reactive systems to detect changes affecting suspension and driveline,” said Poirer. “We’ve been able to leverage terrain intelligence to detect changes ahead in real-time allowing for the vehicle to adapt before a change occurs, the outcome of this is improvements to performance, safety, comfort and reliability of the vehicle.”

“When we first invested in Potential, we were excited by [Poirer’s] vision of a future where AI and terrain perception technologies play key roles in performance, safety, and efficiency,” Brightspark Ventures managing partner Mark Skapinker said in a statement. “By renewing our investment, we’re also renewing our vote of confidence in [Poirer’s] leadership and Potential’s technology.”

To begin, Potential focused its efforts on off-road electric vehicles, which Poirer previously described to BetaKit as a particularly overlooked area. But today, Poirer sees applications for the company’s tech in a variety of vehicles, both on the road and beyond.

Per Potential, this funding will support both new and ongoing innovation projects with automotive manufacturers. To date, Potential has partnered with CFMOTO Powersports, which builds recreational off-road vehicles, and delivered its first innovation project for a global auto brand. 

In addition to auto and powersports, the startup is also piloting its tech for motorcyces. Potential has another pilot set to begin this quarter, with more currently being scoped out.

Feature image courtesy Potential Motors.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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