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AI navigation startup Phiar lands ex-Google manager, funding from Telenav

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By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) - Phiar, a startup aiming to enhance in-car navigation systems by overlaying directions on real-time video, announced on Monday that Google's head of Android automotive platforms joined as chief executive and State Farm Ventures led a $12 million funding round.

Incoming CEO Gene Karshenboym said other new investors include mapping company Telenav, which was taken private by its co-founder in February, and SoftBank Vision Fund-backed driving analytics app developer Cambridge Mobile Telematics.

Phiar wants to supply automakers with artificial intelligence software that analyzes live feeds from exterior cameras on cars. Its software would then put virtual directional markers onto the video, which drivers would watch through a console or windshield screen to navigate.

"Once you experience it, you'll realize you want it," Karshenboym said. "It really helps you drive."

Karshenboym said the system can use existing cameras and computing equipment in vehicles and become a new upsell option for automakers to offer buyers. He said Phiar expects to land its first car deal within a year.

The Silicon Valley company previously developed an app for consumers to have a similar navigation experience through just their smartphone. But the company last year decided to focus on the larger opportunity with automakers, said Karshenboym, who joined last month.

Co-founder and previous CEO Chen-Ping Yu became board chair and chief technology officer. At Alphabet Inc's Google, Karshenboym oversaw a testing system for the company's infotainment operating system.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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