Alumni News: Michael Amaru ’05 Featured in Boston Business Journal

March 13, 2015

0227 Center amaru michael 01

SenseDriver Technologies, Headquarters: Beverly

Description: This automotive tech startup aims to curb texting and driving with a voice-activated, hands-free display that will debut online and at retailers this summer. The product, called SenseHUD, is a voice-activated, hands-free, transparent and portable display that connects with a mobile app to allow drivers to get information about text messages, navigation and driving speed. SenseHUD will be shipped to customers this summer and retails for $130. The idea for the hands-free display came about in 2010 when SenseDriver Technologies co-founder and Montserrat College of Art alumnus Michael Amaru ’05 was knocked off his motorcycle by a car whose driver was distracted by her phone. Officially founded in late 2013, SenseDriver Technologies is now backed by an undisclosed amount of funding from KICventures, a private equity firm.

Driving innovation in the Bay State by Sara Castellanos and David HarrisBoston Business Journal

Advances in sensors, computer chips, Big Data and speech-recognition technologies are making the world’s automobiles safer, smarter and more user-friendly. By all accounts, the modern car is now a computer on wheels, and more than a few Massachusetts companies are at the forefront of those technological advancements.

 

More than a dozen companies in Massachusetts are working on next-generation technologies for all components of automobiles, from startups such as Cambridge Mobile Telematics, SenseDriver Technologies and Verdeva to established companies such as Agero,Skyworks Solutions and semiconductor maker Analog Devices, which has almost 20 percent of its revenue coming from the automotive sector.

In addition to helping improve audio quality and stability control in vehicles, Norwood-based Analog also has developed sensors that can monitor batteries in electric cars. But the company is looking even farther into the future than the electric car, instead focusing on the next wave of “smart cars.” In a presentation last year to analysts, Analog Devices executive Mark Gill said cars of the future will be far-more interactive with both their drivers and surrounding environments — creating “a future where not only are accidents rare and emissions negligible, but one where we’re challenging the very fundamental concept of driving a car.”

To get there, advancements large and small will need to converge around a handful of focus areas with aims to make cars smarter, safer and impenetrable to thieves, both on the street and behind a computer.

To be sure, the auto industry’s stakeholders are of the opinion that technology has the power to positively influence the way we drive. Even the U.S. Department of Transportationis now advocating for increased communication technologies in cars. Late last year, the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it would be taking steps to mandate cars to communicate with one another, exchanging data such as speed and position to help avoid crashes.

According to one expert, there already are hundreds of millions of lines of code across dozens of processors in a typical car. But those lines of code that aim to make us safer are the same ones that could also cause cars — and their drivers — to be vulnerable to cyber attacks. The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. in Cambridge is quietly working on finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities in vehicles as part of a $7 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to help better-secure various Internet-connected devices used by the military.

“As attackers target the components in the car the way they target the PC, those classes of attacks on the desktop could wreak havoc on the vehicle,” said Brad Gaynor, the associate director of cyber systems at Draper.

But those aren’t the only ways local companies are infusing technology into cars. Here are a handful of firms that have the most potential to improve the way we drive today and the ways our cars will function in the future.

View full Boston Business Journal article at bizjournals.com.