Cars and trucks move along the Cross Bronx Freeway, a notorious stretch of freeway in New York that is often choked with traffic and contributes to pollution and poor air quality on November 16, 2021 At New York.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

In this weekly series, CNBC takes a look at the companies that made the inaugural Disruptor 50 list 10 years later.

Transportation has been a big part of the CNBC Disruptor 50 list since its inception in 2013, and some of the original transportation disruptors have become household names.

This includes Waze – at the time an Israeli GPS start-up with little brand recognition in the US compared to Garmin or TomTom – which was acquired by Google for over $1 billion and has long been essential for drivers to avoid speeding tickets and knowing the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts. Uber, which despite its stock market difficulties, has undeniably changed the basic ideas about urban mobility. And SpaceX, which drives transportation disruption to its most ambitious ends.

But another name on this original list of the D50 remains less known to the public, but it is a key link in planning the future of transport: Inrix.

The company, now nearly two decades old (it was founded in 2004), remains under the radar, but its reach in understanding the complexities and challenges of transportation is growing. TomTom is also a competitor. When Kirkland, Washington-based Inrix launched, a pressing issue was the fact that the world still relied on helicopters to monitor traffic. “It was state-of-the-art to figure out what was going on,” says Bryan Mistele, CEO and co-founder, and former Microsoft and Ford executive.

Today, Inrix, which operates in more than 60 countries and several hundred cities, collects aggregated and anonymous data from 500 million vehicles, mobile devices, mobile applications, parking operators, operators mobile phones and smart meters, all in real time, covering both consumers and vehicle fleets, and powering a system that is finding favor with public agencies and transport planners rethinking urban mobility.

This week Apple showed off its CarPlay tech at WWDC, and it might be nice if Siri adjusts your car’s temperature one day, but Inrix has a range of tasks on its to-do list from reducing the climate footprint of urban traffic by means such as optimizing the timing of traffic lights, to trace the operation of autonomous robotaxis in cities, to pick up and drop off passengers and to find their own parking when needed.

The heart of the company’s mission has not changed: its intelligent mobility, based on GPS data. Harnessing GPS data from cars and phones has allowed the company to take off and reach customers like IBM, Amazon and automakers. The biggest changes since its early years have gone beyond basic data to a software-as-a-service model, and that model is being embraced by its fastest-growing customer segment: cities like New York and London and other geographies around the world. including Dubai.

Zero crash, zero carbon, zero traffic

Inrix continues to work closely with many private sector clients, including automotive giants such as BMW and GM. In fact, one of his most recent deals is a cloud-based software venture with GM that overlaps with one of the biggest goals of public sector agencies: reducing accidents and fatalities. Inrix and GM use GM vehicle data on airbag deployment, hard braking and seat belt use, as well as data from the U.S. Census, as part of a data dashboard for city planners with a “Zero Vision” objective of zero road deaths.

“There are 1.3 million people killed every year in accidents,” Mistele said.

These numbers have also increased in recent years, particularly in the United States, with a record set in 2021.

The recent passage of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL) includes approximately $5 billion in discretionary funds under the Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program, which will help the public sector solve the problem.

“Road analytics is a big area of ​​revenue growth,” Mistele said. “There is a huge amount of money flowing into the public sector from the infrastructure bill,” he said.

Software as a service traffic data now accounts for up to 30% of the company’s overall business and is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 40%.

The “zero” vision also intersects with the goal of making transport carbon neutral and reducing the number of accidents, ultimately through the use of autonomous vehicles.

About a year ago, Inrix launched a traffic signal synchronization product that, in pilot cities like Austin, TX, demonstrated a 7% decrease in congestion “by doing nothing but optimize traffic lights,” said Mistele. The Florida Department of Transportation has also adopted the technology. “Every second of delay is 800,000 tonnes of carbon, or 175,000 vehicles,” he said.

While fully self-driving, self-driving urban mobility has progressed more slowly than even the most ambitious predictions, it is making progress and last week GM’s Cruise self-driving robotaxi business received approval in San Francisco.

“We are big believers in ‘ACES’,” Mistele said, referring to “autonomous, connected, electric and shared” vehicles. The shift to a mobility-as-a-service model will increasingly be tied to the rise of autonomous transport. “Instead of driving through a city and parking for eight hours, in most urban areas you will see mobility provided as a service and shared,” he said. “How do you make that happen? By giving vehicles better information,” he added.

He believes “ACES” and robotaxis will make transportation safer, but it will require them to receive data on everything from road closures to parking areas. “We’re doing meter-by-meter mapping of these urban areas … sidewalk management will become more complex,” he said.

According to Mistele, while there’s always a lot of hype with new technologies and a “back to reality” period, the progress made by companies such as Cruise and Waymo in the robotaxi space and Nuro in delivery robotization of consumer goods like pizza, ongoing deployments in cities, and growing production of self-driving vehicles lead him to believe that over the next decade this will be a model of transportation used in most major areas. urban.

“I don’t think we’ll see it ubiquitously across the United States, in rural areas where there’s no need or use case. But electric and autonomous vehicles, and the passage more to mobility as a service will be ubiquitous,” he said. said.

More CNBC Disruptor 50 2022 coverage

There was a moment early in the pandemic when the world literally stopped moving that Inrix was worried about its business, but that didn’t last very long. In fact, Mistele says sweeping changes in mobility patterns not seen before March 2020 have heightened the need for planners, whether in transit or business, to better understand vehicle data, and that is the moment of the pandemic that became critical for its pivot to a software-as-a-service model.

As an example, he said companies in the tire industry need more than ever to analyze mileage data – the No. 1 variable in this niche – to determine consumer demand and service levels. appropriate manufacturing. And in the retail industry, companies were trying to figure out traffic patterns and whether to close stores or move stores to new locations.

Inrix data also has less obvious uses, such as in financial services, where hedge funds want to know how many people are visiting a car dealership, what’s happening at a retail distribution center, and traffic coming in and out of ports, especially with the supply chain under great pressure during the pandemic.

The company now has 1,300 customers in its growing public sector, private enterprise business, which includes companies as diverse as The Weather Channel and IBM’s Chick-fil-A, and the automotive sector.

Inrix has been profitable for most of its history, operating on its own cash since 2005-2007. “Some years the growth is better than others,” Mistele said, and the customer ratio may change — with new use cases emerging during the pandemic and auto sales dropping for a few years before a big rebound. – but the company is recording double-digit growth on an annual basis.

And after almost two decades as a private company – with its biggest investors including venture capital firm Venrock, August Capital and Porsche – it almost pulled the trigger on an initial public offering before the stock market closed. IPOs. In a recent six-month period, he had worked “very heavily” on an IPO deal and was about to file the securities documents. “We even had the ticker booked,” Mistele said. “We were ready to go, but the market crashed after Russia invaded Ukraine,” he said.

One of the oldest disruptors is currently on hold with his exit strategy, but Mistele said he will assess the market every few months.

Sign up for our quirky weekly newsletter that goes beyond the annual Disruptor 50 list, offering deeper insight into the companies making the list and their innovative founders.