Traffic tech company INRIX approaches its 15th birthday, looks to AI to drive its business

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INRIX CEO Bryan Mistele. (INRIX Photo / Annie Laurie Malarkey)

Almost 15 years after INRIX was founded, the traffic technology company has emerged as a rare breed. It is a profitable, privately-held company that largely stopped fundraising when it became cash-flow positive, and has been steadily trucking along ever since.

“When we started this business around the future of transportation data and preaching this connected car story, you have to appreciate there was no iPhone, iPad, or Tesla,” said INRIX CEO Bryan Mistele. “We were ahead of the game … fortunately, our vision of what would happen has materialized.”

Since launching in 2004, INRIX has been selling traffic data and analytics to other businesses. It was founded based on technology spun out of Microsoft, but has grown far beyond that initial technology in the years since. Now the Kirkland, Wash.-based company is headed full speed into the next wave of transportation technology: artificial intelligence.

Earlier this month INRIX launched a new product called INRIX AI Traffic. It’s powered by INRIX’s network of more than half a billion mobile devices and vehicles that send traffic data to the company in real time. The machine learning system process that data plus 14 years of training data to recognize patterns.

INRIX’s traffic coverage before and after adding the AI product. (INRIX Images)

“It’s really the biggest advance that we’ve seen in a decade, which basically leverages advanced artificial intelligence to completely re-architect how traffic is collected, processed, and how it’s reported,” Mistele said.

Mistele says early tests of the AI technology show a 25 percent increase in accuracy over its existing traffic analysis product. According to INRIX, the new product works at such a granular level, it can determine the speed of traffic in different lanes. The coverage area is also dramatically expanded to include small country streets and residential lanes.

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INRIX’s customers include more than 250 government agencies around the world as well as car companies and consumer brands like Amazon and Starbucks, who want traffic data to inform decisions like where to site retail stores. INRIX also sells its data to navigation companies like Google and its subsidiary, Waze.

The company raised its Series A, B, and C between 2005-2007. The business has been cashflow positive since then. After those initial rounds, INRIX only took outside investment twice, in both cases to make an acquisition.

About 60 percent of INRIX is held by investors and the remaining 40 percent is owned by founders and employees.

Today, INRIX has 400 employees across the globe. As for what’s next, Mistele thinks INRIX will ultimately sell or go public but he’s in no rush.

“There’s benefits for companies staying private later as we know from folks like Uber and Lyft and various others,” he said. “We don’t really have pressure to do anything other than continue to build the business.”

[Editor’s Note: Number of government customers corrected since original post.]

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