AImotive was founded in 2015 as a spin-off of to László Kishonti’s previous venture, Kishonti Ltd., which developed industry-leading CPU and GPU benchmarking tools.
Since then, the company has grown into the largest and most funded independent automated driving development team in Europe. In just five years, the company has recruited over 200 employees in three offices on three different continents, with two new offices to be opened very soon.
Through fantastic management and a spearhead-approach to business structure and product, AImotive has already established itself as a leader in the automated driving race.
To find out more, I speak with AImotive’s Chief Product Officer, Péter Kovács.
“From the outset we have focused on creating affordable and scalable technologies that can be deployed quickly to increase road safety and gradually increase automation, paving the way to the higher levels of automated driving.”
With autonomous technology slowly working its way into vehicles on the road today, there has been an influx of new players in the market. For this reason, it is extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd; however, AImotive has achieved this by bringing automated driving to all.
The Long Road To Automation
AImotive develops automated driving software, simulation technologies and artificial intelligence acceleration hardware IP, which puts the company in a unique position.
By doing so, it utilises its findings in different arms of the business and can apply it to not only its own learnings but also that of its customers.
“We tackle the challenges the industry is facing from a holistic perspective, understanding each challenge and providing a synergic product suite that helps our partners tackle the difficulties they are facing in their own development efforts,” says Kovács. “Our aiSim is also the only complex automated driving simulator in the world with ISO 26262 TCL3 certification, meaning it can be used in the development and verification of automated driving solutions up to ASIL D.”
This is vital in what is an incredibly long and challenging journey. We are starting to see some form of automation in vehicles on the road today, but we are still some way off. In order to efficiently develop these systems, making them as safe and accurate as possible, we need to see further collaboration across the sector.
However, we have seen in the past that autonomous software is not being driven entirely by the technology providers, but the OEMs, which are seeing brand valuations sky-rocket thanks to the inclusion of autonomous innovation. Just look at what Elon Musk has achieved in an incredibly challenging market.
“Tesla recently became the most highly valued carmaker on the stock market, while its market share is around 0,5%. Nevertheless, at the moment the focus is on continuously increasing automation to gradually increase road safety, and just as importantly, user trust in automated driving systems,” says Kovács.
“As embedded hardware platforms for automated driving systems improve, the industry will increasingly shift its strategy to over-the-air updates and even to in-vehicle AppStore-like systems which will allow drivers to upgrade the functionalities of their vehicles.”
In addition to Tesla, there are a lot of players appearing in the newly-created autonomous space, pouring money into regions around the world and creating what has seemingly become a turf war. But surely all of these companies cannot exist in an autonomous world?
According to Kovács, there are two directions in the industry. One focuses on automated or autonomous taxis, the other develops solutions for personal vehicles.
“While our technologies can be used by those developing robo taxi technologies, we are focusing on the latter. Here the industry is heading towards consolidation, everyone’s known that for years,” he says.
“The cell phone industry is a great parallel. Early on, when the technology first appeared there were several market players, and hardware was the main differentiator. However, as the technology matured and smartphones appeared software came into focus, and 2–3 major suppliers came to rule the majority of the market. Something similar will likely happen in automated driving, and maybe even the automotive industry as a whole over the coming years.”
Realising an Autonomous Era in a Post COVID-19 World
With everything going on in the world today, it is difficult to focus on autonomous technology. However, COVID-19 will not only change the role of transport but, when it comes to players in the autonomous space, separate the wheat from the chaff.
As expected, investment in the sector is down, which puts further pressure on these companies. However, AImotive was able to successfully close an investment round in the current climate, underscoring the trust investors and the wider industry have in the real-world usability of its solutions.
“Like all economic downturns, the crisis caused by the current pandemic will clean up the industry, bringing companies that have solutions capable of solving real-world problems in shorter timeframes to the fore,” says Kovács.
In terms of how transport will change, it is important to evaluate how autonomous technology will integrate with other forms of transport in urban ecosystems. This is a lot more difficult to predict, as consumer behaviour and transport services are constantly changing. Ultimately, the future of mobility is an extremely complex question and hinges on several factors that are changing almost on a daily basis at the moment.
“How will ride and car-sharing services recover following the pandemic, or how the use of public transport is affected in the long term?” questions Kovács. “In the near future, increasing automation will primarily make commuting more comfortable and safer in some scenarios. Traffic jam assists and pedestrian or cyclist protection system are great paths forward for automation in city environments.”
“Later automated shuttles may become widespread, that move people around within closed areas, such as campuses or industrial grounds. Full automation will lead to an immense shift in transportation but that is a few decades down the line.”
During this time, we will see the evolution from minor automated driving systems, from lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control to highly-developed level 4 and 5 autopilot software. Firstly in premium models, before trickling down to entire vehicle line-ups and also in new mobility services.
“Regulators may play a part in accelerating this to a certain degree, similarly to when rear-view cameras were made compulsory on all vehicles sold in America,” adds Kovács. “Some forms of automation will become basic vehicle features within the next 5–10 years, and the industry will continue to work towards ever higher levels of automation, but putting an exact date on its deployment is almost impossible.”