DENSO Leads $65 Million Series C Funding Round in ThinCI to Make Autonomous Cars a Reality
– Investment speeds development of semiconductor devices with deep learning capabilities required for next-generation autonomous and electric vehicles –
KARIYA (Japan) ― DENSO Corporation, a $48.1 billion company and one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers of technology and components, continues to search for new ways to support the development of future mobility solutions that will revolutionize how society moves. To that end, DENSO subsidiary NSITEXE, Inc., a developer of key semiconductor components enabling automated driving, today announced its investment in ThinCI Inc., an AI hardware startup developing computing platforms. ThinCI’s programmable computing architecture can accelerate deep learning, AI and other algorithms relevant to the automotive industry and will provide somewhere around 5 to 10 times the computing power and performance offered by the next best solution.
The successful close of ThinCI’s $65 million series C funding round was led by DENSO and Temasek. Other investors include GGV Capital, Mirai Creation Fund – backed by Toyota and other limited partners – and Daimler. DENSO was the lead investor in ThinCI’s last funding round in 2016.
“ThinCI has the capabilities to help us usher in the next era of transportation. The company's technology provides the computing power to make autonomous driving and advanced electric vehicles the industry norm," said Tony Cannestra, DENSO's Director of Corporate Ventures. "The move to Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy in the automotive industry will require huge amounts of flexible computing power. 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.”
As automotive electronics become increasingly sophisticated, the number of semiconductor devices used in vehicles has increased significantly. When automated driving and electrified power sources become the norm, high-performance, yet low-power semiconductor devices will be required for self-driving cars to operate effectively. These vehicles will need to constantly monitor their surroundings, rapidly process enormous amounts of information and make split-second driving decisions – all of which are made possible by semiconductors being able to properly sense road environments and communicate with one another.
In a bid to achieve practical use of semiconductor devices necessary for automated driving technologies, DENSO established NSITEXE in 2017 to design and develop a next-generation, high-performance semiconductor devices to advance autonomous driving solutions. One of NSITEXE’s current focuses is its Data Flow Processor, or DFP, which is a brand-new type of processor that enhances the functionality of central processing units (CPUs) and graphic processing units (GPUs), meaning they can rapidly perform multiple complex calculations at once. Moreover, a DFP is capable of instantaneously optimizing its calculating areas according to the amount and content of information, which reduces its power consumption and heat generation. Since 2016, DENSO and ThinCI have worked together to commercialize the DFP and enhance its development.
“Our Data Flow Processors allow autonomous vehicles to make quick-fire decisions out of complicated and fast-evolving data sets,” said Yukihide Niimi, president and CEO, NSITEXE. “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.”
"We are thrilled and honored by the financial commitment from such major investment funds and automotive and industrial giants,” said ThinCI CEO Dinakar Munagala. “The quality of investors coming together to invest in ThinCI validates our vision of industries adopting AI by leveraging our hardware and accompanying software stack. The interest from our automotive investors demonstrate their confidence that we can build on our early access partnerships with select automotive players and that our silicon will deliver the performance required to meet all five levels of autonomous driving. The expansion of our investor set to include industrial firms outside the automotive sector validates our assertion that ThinCI’s technology can accelerate AI adoption across a wide range of non-automotive applications, such as smart cities, datacenters, and surveillance. We firmly believe that ThinCI technology and products will substantially complement their portfolio companies in these diverse areas.”
DENSO has long developed in-vehicle semiconductor devices to improve its engine control units and sensors, establishing its Integrated Circuit Research Center in 1968. Using its innovative past as a launching pad to the future, DENSO will continue to develop advanced technologies to help create an environmentally friendly, safe, and secure society for all.
About DENSO Corporation
DENSO Corp., headquartered in Kariya, Aichi prefecture, Japan has approximately 220 subsidiaries in 35 countries and regions (including Japan) and employs approximately 170,000 people worldwide. Consolidated global sales for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018, totaled US$48.1 billion. Last fiscal year, DENSO spent 8.8 percent of its global consolidated sales on research and development. DENSO common stock is traded on the Tokyo and Nagoya stock exchanges. For more information, go to www.denso.com, or visit our media website at www.denso.com/global/en/news/media-center/.
About NSITEXE, Inc.
NSITEXE, Inc., a subsidiary of DENSO Corporation since 2017 and headquartered in Tokyo, is a leading developer of semiconductor intellectual property (IP) cores. NSITEXE’s advanced semiconductor components are key for in-vehicle environment and safety technologies, such as advanced driving assistance systems and automated driving in next-generation vehicles. DENSO has long refined in-vehicle semiconductor technologies and NSITEXE continues its mission to develop the advanced technologies delivering an environmentally friendly, safe and secure automotive society. Beyond automotive, NSITEXE’s powerful yet efficient semiconductor processors and sensors can be applied to industrial settings, smart homes and more. For additional information, go to nsitexe.com/en/.
About THinCI Inc.
ThinCI Inc. is a venture-backed, deep-learning start-up based in El Dorado Hills, California with teams in California, Hyderabad, India and the UK. The company was founded by a highly skilled technical team with years of experience in massively parallel processing architectures and the software structures to execute on these computing engines. The company is currently in the final phase of developing its deep learning and vision processing solutions comprising hardware platforms, proprietary silicon, comprehensive SDK and application software that can be integrated into a wide range of applications. These include advanced driver assistance systems in automotive; intelligent agents for personal electronics that enhance photos and video, explain the real world surrounding the user, protect the user from potential danger; smart home automation systems that detect and prevent hazards, intelligently manage home energy consumption, and provide the optimum indoor climate. ThinCI's technology is also applicable in commercial applications, for example, providing personalized suggestions to shoppers entering a store; in industrial applications for authenticating access, determining potential problems in operating equipment; in smart cities intelligently managing traffic lights based on real time traffic conditions, collecting and analyzing real-time video surveillance on city streets, and in data centers, where low-latency power-efficient deep learning is essential to manage the exploding volumes of collected data.