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November 5, 2018

AI Partners Shift Driverless Cars into High Gear

George Leopold

Source: Optimus Ride

AI investments and deployment for driverless vehicles are speeding up, with another auto manufacturer partnering with a computer vision startup and an autonomous vehicle specialist deploying Nvidia’s Xavier platform.

Korean car maker Hyundai (OTCMKTS: HYMTF) is investing in Allegro.ai, an Israeli startup applying deep learning to computer vision for car navigation. Founded in 2016, Allegro.ai emerged from stealth mode in April upon completion of a Series A funding round that raised $11 million.

Hyundai Cradle, the auto manufacturer’s venture arm, said Monday (Nov. 5) is has entered into a strategic partnership with Tel Aviv-based Allegro.ai. It did not disclose the amount of its investment, saying only that the collaboration would help accelerate deployment of the startup’s AI technology.

Among them is autonomous driving, which Hyundai and a growing list of automotive startups are pursuing with varying degrees of success. Hyundai said it expects to deploy Allegro.ai’s computer vision technology for auto applications like navigation and real-time decision-making.

Ruby Chen, investment head for Hyundai Cradle, said the its partnership with Allegro.ai is its fifth so far within Israel’s vibrant AI research sector.

Along with autonomous systems, Allegro.ai promotes its deep learning-based computer vision technology for the drone, security and logistics markets. The startup’s business model is based on allowing manufacturers to manage large data sets to build deep learning models while maintaining strict control of training and other data.

Along with deep learning and computer vision, Allegro.ai CEO Nir Bar-lev, a veteran of Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), and his co-founders specialize in embedded and high-performance computing.

Previous investors in Allegro.ai include automotive specialist Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Samsung Catalyst Fund and MizMaa Ventures, which according to the web site Techcrunch.com is a Chinese fund focusing on Israeli technology startups.

The investment also underscores how auto and chip makers like Samsung (KRX: 005930) are pouring venture funding into up-and-coming startups focused on computer vision, deep learning and deep neural networks for inference applications. GPU leader Nvidia has for example invested in autonomous vehicle startups as it seeks to expand the reach of its AI platforms for training deep neural networks and its Drive car computer for inference tasks.

Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) was an early investor in Optimus Ride, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology AI spinoff developing fully autonomous vehicles. This week, Optimus Ride announced it will used Nvidia’s Drive AGX Xavier computing platform in its autonomous vehicle fleet.

The Boston-based startup said the Xavier platform would allow it to scale development of a planned driverless fleet service in “geofenced” areas such as planned communities, campuses and other designated autonomous-driving zones.

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