Chip maker AI Kneron raises $ 25M for autonomous drive push - TechCrunch
AI chips, which are semiconductors designed to accelerate machine learning, have many applications. One of the promising use cases, according to Albert Liu, is the use of AI chips in autonomous driving vehicles.
That's why Kneron, Liu's AI startup, has been quietly holding up investments to march into luxury transportation. It recently closed a new $ 25 million funding round with Lite-On Technology, a Taiwanese optoelectronic pioneer, as a strategic investor. Other investors included Alltek, PalPilot, Sand Hill Angels and Gaingels.
The new profits have raised Kneron's total funding to more than $ 125 million since its inception in 2015. The San Diego- and Taipei-based company has compiled a list of reputable investors, including Horizon Ventures tycoon Li Ka-Shing, Alibaba, Qualcomm, Sequoia and Foxconn, the world's largest electronics manufacturer and supplier Apple.
Liu previously told TechCrunch that the company was expected to turn a profit in 2023, which would be a "good time" to go public. When asked recently, the founder was more skeptical about the company's IPO plans, although he said the listing would likely be in the U.S.
"The future of L4 or L5 autonomous driving lies not only in the vehicle but also roadside AI," Liu, who worked on Qualcomm's computer vision, told TechCrunch in an interview .
Kneron’s latest investment came after the release of their first self-leveling semiconductors for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles.
With roadside view units that can communicate with nearby vehicles, an ambulance would not have to stop at intersections, Liu explained. Such infrastructure is particularly useful in Asian countries where traffic situations are more complex than those in the US, he said.
Through its strategic investment, Kneron and Lite-On will develop roadside AI boxes powered by Kneron edge AI slots.
The start-up slots are “redesigned”, meaning they combine software flexibility with high-speed hardware. As for AV, its silicon can be used for both the large AI engine inside a vehicle and to power the small sensors on the outside of the car, Liu explained and as seen in the video This demo:
Kneron is currently attracting $ 3-4 million in monthly revenue from its pool of 30 enterprise customers; 30-40% of its revenue currently comes from the US.
The company has forged deep alliances with business partners. In May, Kneron agreed purchase Vatics image signal processor from Vivotek, a subsidiary of Delta Electronics. Kneron counts Foxconn as a strategic investor, which has been using the startup chips in the “MIH” manufacturing platform for electric vehicles.
The article was updated to reveal that Lite-On was a strategic investor and did not lead the tour.