Israeli startup Hi Auto, which is developing an automotive-grade speech recognition platform, has emerged from stealth mode to raise $4.5 million in seed financing. The round was led by Delek Motors and Hi Auto’s acting chairman Zohar Zisapel, with participation from Allied Holdings, a holding company of car importer Champion Motors, Singapore-based Goldbell Group, a leader in the field of distributing and leasing of industrial vehicles, and Plug & Play, which works with automotive corporate partners to introduce innovation.

Founded this year, Hi Auto seeks to help OEMs reinvent how customers spend their time in the car by offering a white-label voice platform that converses naturally with customers and works under any noise conditions.

Hi Auto said in a statement that it is planning to use the funds to complete the development of its first product, launch sales, and expand its team.

“Speech recognition platforms today suffer from poor recognition rates in a noisy environment such as kids in the back seat of cars, ambulance passing by, or heavy rain. Hi Auto’s audio-visual approach will eliminate all noise and will make a voice recognition platform work reliably under any noise condition,” the startup said.

According to the company, its novel solution can be applied to a broad range of use cases in various fields where there is a need for speech recognition and clear conversations (call centers for example).

Hi Auto was founded by CEO Roy Baharav, previously at Google HQ in Mountain View, CTO Eyal Shapira, a serial entrepreneur and consultant, and Zisapel, who serves as acting chairman. Zisapel is a well-known entrepreneur and a prominent investor in the automotive sector.

“From buying train tickets, through controlling navigation to commanding a car to change lanes, speech recognition is quickly becoming the method of choice to control devices for the majority of the world,” said Baharav in a statement. “However, when devices operate in multiple speaker environments and noisy environments, their reliability goes down dramatically. Our audio-visual approach is able to focus on the speaker and remove all noises as if the speaker was talking from a recording room. Our solution will make the speech recognition experience in the car and in other environments more satisfying for consumers and enable the introduction of more complex and sensitive capabilities by OEMs.”

Hi Auto is set to demonstrate its tech at CES 2020 in January in Las Vegas. The startup says it is “a prototype of the world’s first commercial solution for driver speech recognition that separates the driver’s voice, blocks out all other passenger voices and noises inside and outside the vehicle.”

Intel announced that Hi Auto was one of nine Israeli startups selected for its new accelerator program “Ignite” in Tel Aviv