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Image: Continental

Continental is joining the UC Berkeley DeepDrive center (BDD), an artificial intelligence research partnership which is focusing on optimizing speed of neural networks and protecting AI systems in safety-critical applications.

The first year of the five-year joint research programme will focus on the testability of AI algorithms in safety-relevant systems, and how to operate AI applications in a memory-efficient way. The aim is to implement the research results into series production as quickly as possible.

BDD is a multi-disciplinary center managed by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. It is supported by industry sponsors, and led by Professor Trevor Darrell, who said in a statement: “Continental is a leader in the automotive industry, and BDD is opening up opportunities for artificial intelligence and autonomous driving in automotive applications, which makes for a great team.”

Demetrio Aiello, head of Continental’s corporate artificial intelligence and robotics lab, pointed to the importance of ‘explainable AI’, which focuses on understanding precisely how an AI system makes decisions. “What inspired us most to team up with the experts in Silicon Valley and UC Berkeley was the highly interesting research in the field of explainable AI as well as the optimization of deep neural networks that was taking place there,” he said, adding: “The opportunity to have colleagues from Silicon Valley and other Continental locations working as part of BDD research teams enables more efficient collaboration and transfer of expertise. It also allows us to identify the talent we need for our AI strategy at an early stage.”

Continental’s AI and robotics lab is also running strategic collaborations with NVIDIA, Baidu and research institutes including the Technical University, Darmstadt, University of Oxford, DFKI (German Research Center for AI) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and it has a center for deep machine learning in Budapest, Hungary.

Realignment of Supervisory Board

Continental has also recently announced changes to its supervisory board which it notes are one of its largest organizational changes in its 147-year history. A new holding structure has been approved with a new ‘Continental Group’ umbrella brand, and the current Powertrain division will be renamed and spun off as an independent entity by early 2019.

The two other group sectors will be Continental Rubber, comprising the current Tires and ContiTech divisions, and Continental Automotive; within this, the current Chassis & Safety and Interior divisions will be reorganized into ‘Autonomous Driving Technologies’ and ‘Vehicle Networking Technologies’, supported by a central research and development function. This realignment represents how traditional automotive companies and suppliers are undergoing a quite profound shift as they reposition themselves for a new era of mobility.

-Farah Alkhalisi