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Continental Acquires a Minority Stake in Silicon Valley Startup Recogni for AI-Powered Chips for Autonomous Vehicles

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【Summary】German automotive supplier Continental AG announced it acquired a minority stake in AI chip developer Recogni, a Silicon Valley startup founded 2017 that’s developing AI-powered chips to support perception systems for automated driving. Recogni’s primary focus is on faster perception processing for Level 2+ autonomous vehicles, which requires chips that offer exceptionally high real-time processing performance while consuming very little power.

Eric Walz    Feb 25, 2021 12:00 PM PT
Continental Acquires a Minority Stake in Silicon Valley Startup Recogni for AI-Powered Chips for Autonomous Vehicles

Today's modern vehicles are loaded with electronics, which is one of the reasons why the recent chip shortages have forced many of the world's automakers to suspend production until they can source the chips they require for their vehicles.

However, growing demand for chips that support higher levels of autonomous driving will only increase, which has led to German automotive supplier Continental AG to acquire a minority stake in AI chip developer Recogni, a Silicon Valley startup founded 2017 that's developing AI-powered chips to support perception systems for automated driving.

Both companies declined to disclose the amount of the investment.

However on Feb 17, Recogni announced a $48.9 Million Series B Investment Led by WRVI Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. Also participating in the round was Continental, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, and existing investors Toyota AI Ventures and BMW i Ventures.

Recogni's primary focus is on faster perception processing for Level 2+ autonomous vehicles, which requires exceptionally high real-time processing performance while consuming very little power. 

Recogni's founders have extensive experience in system design, AI, machine learning, computer vision, as well as custom silicon design. The company is working on a new chip architecture for real time object recognition using AI-powered edge processing. 

Prior to the investment from Continental, Recogni developed a "Vision Cognition Processor", which is an artificial intelligence platform for autonomous vehicles. 

Recogni's perception technology can identify bikes and pedestrians, as well as their location in real-time, much faster and from further away than any of its competitors in the market, the company claims. 

Rocogni's ultra-fast chips will be used in Continental's high-performance vehicle computers to support the rapid processing of sensor data that's required for automated and autonomous driving. 

As a strategic investor, Continental is contributing both its financial commitment as well as its expertise in the field of AI, vehicle sensors and advanced driver assistance systems to further support the development of Recogni's chip design, the company said.

Autonomous vehicle perception systems are becoming more advanced and require faster chips. Just a few years ago, automotive chips that only needed to process a few megabytes of sensor data per second were adequate enough, according to Continental. 

However in the future, the amount of data that vehicle perception systems will need to process is expected to increase to several gigabytes per second, as more vehicles come with advanced drivers assist systems (ADAS) such as Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and level 2 and 3 autonomous driving features. 

For example, lane departure warning systems used to require just a single sensor to function, such as a simple black-and-white camera. But autonomous capable vehicles can use up to 20 high-resolution vehicle-surroundings sensors simultaneously, including radar, cameras and lidar.

Chips that can process this vast amount of data in real-time will be required before autonomous vehicles are deployed at scale, according to Continental. One solution however its to use edge processing rather than sending data to the cloud, which increases the latency.

"Without faster chips, there will be no networking, no automation and no autonomous driving," emphasizes Frank Petznick, head of the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems business unit at Continental. "Through our own research in the area of new chip designs, our strategic partnerships with large chip manufacturers such as NVIDIA and our investment in Recogni, we are taking the first step toward meeting the future need for highly specialized processors for sensor modules and control units for our powerful, high-performance vehicle computers."

The Continental and Recogni partnership was initiated by Continental's in-house start-up program, co-pace, which serves as an incubator, providing investments and support to startups developing advanced mobility technology.

Continental said its worldwide team of technology experts took notice of Recogni and the two have been working together closely over the past 18 months on a new and faster chip design. 

"While everything is still theoretical, our simulations show that we can expect exponentially faster analysis of our sensor data once we begin to use the Recogni chips," said Annika Ratte-Front, head of AI at Continental's ADAS business unit.

Continental predicts that volume production using Recogni's new chip architecture could begin as early as 2026. 


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