A subsidiary of automotive supplier Denso is one of the lead investors in ThinCI, an artificial-intelligence hardware startup developing computing platforms.
Denso subsidiary NSITEXE, a developer of semiconductor components enabling automated driving, is one of the lead investors in ThinCI’s $65 million series C funding round. Denso says in a news release it was the lead investor in ThinCI’s last funding round in 2016.
Others involved in the latest transaction include Temasek, an investment company owned by the government of Singapore; Daimler; and the Mirai Creation Fund backed by Toyota and other limited partners.
As the captive supplier to Toyota, Denso needs to accelerate AI research as the automaker has upped its autonomous-vehicle development with its investment in ride-hailing service Uber.
ThinCI’s programmable computing architecture can accelerate deep learning, AI and other algorithms used in the automotive industry and can provide five to 10 times the computing power and performance offered by competitors, Denso says.
The number of semiconductor devices used in vehicles has increased significantly as automotive electronics become increasingly sophisticated. High-performance, yet low-power semiconductor devices will be required for self-driving cars to operate effectively when automated driving and electrified power sources become the norm.
“ThinCI has the capabilities to help us usher in the next era of transportation,” says Tony Cannestra, Denso’s director of corporate ventures. “The company's technology provides the computing power to make autonomous driving and advanced electric vehicles the industry norm.
“The move to Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy in the automotive industry will require huge amounts of flexible computing power,” he says. “It’s not feasible for car owners to have autonomous vehicles with server racks in their trunks, so there is a definite need to get that computing power out of the trunk and into a set of chips.”
Denso established NSITEXE in 2017 to design and develop next-generation, high-performance semiconductor devices to advance autonomous driving. One of NSITEXE’s current focuses is its Data Flow Processor, a new type of processor that enhances the functionality of central processing units and graphic processing units, meaning they can rapidly perform multiple complex calculations at once.
“Our Data Flow Processors allow autonomous vehicles to make quick-fire decisions out of complicated and fast-evolving data sets,” NSITEXE President and CEO Yukihide Niimi says. “This takes highly targeted computing and processing power, which is why adding ThinCI’s deep-learning and vision-processing capabilities help ensure our DFPs operate effectively and efficiently.”
– with James Amend in Detroit