Image: Denso

Denso Corporation, via its NSITEXE subsidiary, is investing further in AI hardware start-up ThinCI to accelerate commercialization of semiconductors with deep learning capabilities. ThinCI, based in El Dorado Hills, California, is said to be in the final phase of developing an adaptable series of hardware platforms and software for deep learning and vision processing, suitable for a variety of applications in sectors including personal electronics; smart cities and smart homes; retail; and industry, as well as for autonomous vehicles. It has teams in the UK and India and the US.

ThinCI’s programmable architecture is claimed to provide 5-10 times the computing power and performance currently offered by other solutions, to support AI and other algorithms. “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, in a statement.

"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.”

Denso’s NSITEXE division in Tokyo was established in 2017 to design and develop semiconductor devices for autonomous driving. It is focusing on a data flow processor (DFP) for multiple complex calculations, i.e. from graphic processing units as well as from central processing units, and has already been collaborating with ThinCI.

Yukihide Niimi, president and CEO of NSITEXE, explains further: “Our Data Flow Processors allow autonomous vehicles to make quick-fire decisions out of complicated and fast-evolving data sets. 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.”

$65million invested in ThinCI

While Denso has led the investment in ThinCI's Series C funding round, the company is now backed by a series of global investors. These include Daimler, the Mirai Creation Fund (mainly funded by Toyota), a consortium of venture capital funds and "a major Asia-based electronics company". This funding round raised $65million.

ThinCI CEO Dinakar Munagala said in a statement: "We are thrilled and honored by the financial commitment from such major investment funds and automotive and industrial giants. 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.”

-Farah Alkhalisi