Parallel Domain

A maker of virtual environments where autonomous vehicles can refine their driving algorithms with no risk to humans.

Palo AltoCA 
Company size:
$2.65 million
 Photo Credit: Parallel Domain

Every year, 1.25 million people around the world die in motor vehicle accidents. "It's not a huge topic of conversation in most living rooms because we just accept that," says Kevin McNamara. "I think that's really strange." McNamara's startup, Parallel Domain, is hoping to change that by making it easier for self-driving cars to get smarter without the risks of real-world road testing. It does that by offering software tools to build photorealistic, dynamic, 3-D environments where autonomous-vehicle systems can conduct millions or billions of training sessions, providing them with the data they need to spot rare but potentially fatal bugs. "Simulation is really the only way you can prove an autonomous vehicle is safe," says Jim Adler, managing director of Toyota AI Ventures, which participated in Parallel Domain's seed round. A former employee of Apple and Microsoft, McNamara got into computer graphics after seeing the movie Finding Nemo. He was so inspired, he sought out an internship at Pixar. Eventually, he hopes Parallel Domain will expand from virtual training environments into other areas, including entertainment--which would bring his career full circle. --Jeff Bercovici