Above: Ziv Binyamini, Foretellix CEO and Co-Founder
NVIDIA and Toyota have made an investment in Tel aviv-based Foretellix, a provider of safety-driven verification and validation solutions for Automated Driving Systems and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Foretellix announced it has raised $43 million in the first closing of its Series C funding round led by 83North, bringing its total raised capital to over $93 million.
This time, Woven Capital of Toyota and NVIDIA joined the financing round, along with Artofin VC. All major existing shareholders participated, including MoreTech, Nationwide, Volvo Group VC, and Jump Capital. “We are thrilled to have Woven by Toyota and NVIDIA as strategic partners,” said Ziv Binyamini, Foretellix CEO and Co-Founder. “The new funding will help us to extend our worldwide reach, and accelerate our vision for achieving safe autonomy.”
Foretellix’s Safety-Driven Verification & Validation (SDV) Platform, Foretify, is used by Automotive, Trucking, and Mining customers, including Volvo Group, Daimler Truck subsidiary, and many others, to accelerate the development and deployment of their Automated Driving Systems. Foretellix established partnerships with major simulation companies, including IPG, NVIDIA, dSPACE, VIRES, AI Motive, and Cognata.
The platform is based on a new invention: The Measurable Scenario Description Language (M-SDL) – a modeling language addressing the needs of Autonomous Vehicle (AV) and ADAS verification. M-SDL allows users to create a partial, abstract description of a scenario together with a set of legality rules. In order to thoroughly verify an AV or ADAS, users often need to take into account multiple ways of categorizing actors or scenarios. This can be easily modeled in M-SDL, and thus to save the need for countless actual driving sessions on physical roads.
Foretellix led the ASAM OpenSCENARIO® 2.0 (OSC2.0) standard development revolutionizing how safety is developed and tested in Automated Driving Systems. Foretellix contributed key syntax and concepts to ASAM, and it continues to lead further enhancements of the standard. The Foretify platform is the industry’s first solution offering native OSC2.0 support.
Cognata Company from Rehovot, Israel, has announced few weeks ago the appointment of Dr. Gahl Berkooz as Chief Data Officer and President, Americas. This is a new function in the company, and staffing it with a senior, experienced figure reveals new Cognata’s strategy to move from supplying a simulator towards complete procedural solution intended for both development and validation of ADAS and autonomous driving systems. The goal of this platform is to cover all the phases – starting at creating and managing data and ending at executing verification processes that are obliged throughout product lifecycle.
Nowadays, smart vehicle is conceptualized as a computer on wheels, an instrument that produces enormous amounts of data that needs to be managed and utilized in the form of analytics and monetization. However, when Berkooz joined Ford in 2004, the field of connected vehicle was in its infancy, and the interface between cars, data and computers was far less natural. In a conversation with Techtime, Berkooz, who holds a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Cornell University, says: “The data area among major vehicle manufacturers was a mess. As the connected car field evolved, it was clear that we need a new approach regarding data management and the way we can utilize it”.
During his time at Ford, Berkooz was in charge of establishing the Information Management and Analytics at the OEM, both organizational data and data that is produced and consumed by drivers. He was the one who formulated the way data is collected and standartized to produce analytics and monetization. Later, he moved to General Motors as Chief of Analytics for General Motors’ Global Connected Customer Experience (OnStar) Division, where he led similar processes between 2016- 2018.
Berkooz arrived at Cognata through his third career’s milestone, German Tier-1 ZF, where he established the ZF Digital Venture Accelerator, building technology start-ups for ZF. Cognata and ZF are collaborating for several years. “I was introduced to Cognata through ADAS development startup who worked in collaboration with Cognata. This cooperation emphasized the need of reducing ADAS verification costs”, said Berkooz.
The way to autonomy is paved with endless milage
At the beginning of the technological journey towards autonomy, AV developers based their testing mainly on test drives, intended to train the systems and verify their reliability in recognizing the environment and decisions making. However, car industry quickly realized that these road tests have limited efficiency.
Berkooz: “Road tests are an expensive operation, and it is hard to ‘catch’ rare scenarios. Car industry is trying to form the most efficient and proper way of validating ADAS. As the level of autonomy is higher, the range of validation is increased, and in a non-linear manner, since the more the vehicle is responsible for more driving aspects, more scenarios should be evaluated, and the coverage must be greater accordingly”.
As of today, the focus in ADAS development and verification is moving from road tests to simulators. Cognata’s simulator creates virtual environment that imitates the road in detail, starting at the exact street mapping, drivers and cars behavior and ending at small, unexpected items such as road flaws, trash cans, signs, trees and even a cat suddenly running into the road. Cognata’s simulator is capable of systematically producing driving scenarios’ clusters, which evaluate the functionality of sensors and computing units at every situation they may encounter in the jungle called “the road”.
From simulation company to data company
However, although using a simulator significantly accelerates the development and test processes, one can not based the verification of a safety system solely om simulator, since simulation is eventually only an approximation of reality.
According to Berkooz, Cognata is now formulating a strategy where the simulator is just another instrument in a complete ecosystem of processes and solutions for developing and validating ADAS. “The simulator is not the center, the data are. Eventually, the simulator is an instrument for generating data to be used by development, training and validating processes. Cognata is striving to position itself as a data company, whether it is data generated by simulator in virtual environment or actual data collected by sensors and road tests. Our algorithms provide us with the capability of taking road test’s data and alter parameters such as sight angle. We take the data and make it meta-data that generates additional data”.
Berkooz explains the validation processes are currently decentralized, and there is a need for a platform to concentrate all the processes, the same way it’s done in the PLM plaforms. “We are moving towards focusing on developing data tools and assets. OEMs generate a lot of data during road tests, but they have no methodology that enable them to make use of this data as part of their future development efforts. The goal is to provide a unified platform that supports data from simulations as well as from actual sensors. This will help reducing verification and road tests costs. This synergy opens a whole new world of possibilities.”
Israeli-based Adasky, developer of an advanced thermal sensor for the automotive industry and smart city applications, reported on a mass production agreement with a leading american auto maker. According to this agreement, the auto maker will incorporate Adasky’s Viper sensor in one of its future models, planned to be launched during 2023. The sensor, together with the software interpreting the signals will be incorporated in the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) installed in the vehicle. This integration is the first milestone in a joint multi-annual development plan, which may lead for incorporating Viper into other models and additional applications in the future.
Viper includes designated software for distance estimation, which enhances the Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) applications and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) system. In order to promote the cooperation, Adasky will speed up the opening of a new production line near its headquarters in Yoqne’am, and also plan to launch a new branch in the U.S.
Adasky’s Viper, is comprised of a high-performing thermal camera and state-of-the-art machine vision algorithms, together in one complete solution, that can be added to any autonomous vehicle to enable it to see better and analyze its surroundings. Viper passively collects FIR signals through detection of thermal energy radiated from objects and their body heat. AdaSky’s algorithms process the signals collected by the camera to provide accurate object detection and scene analysis, giving the vehicle the ability to precisely detect pedestrians at a few hundreds of meters, allowing more distance in which to react to driving decisions.
According to the company, Viper is the first high-resolution, thermal camera for autonomous vehicles with minimal size, weight and power consumption and no moving parts – at a price suited for mass market. Viper generates a new layer of information, originated from a different band of the electromagnetic spectrum, significantly increasing performance for classification, identification, and detection of objects and of vehicle surroundings, both near and far range.
AV, Covid-19 detection and Smart City
Based on its core technology, Adasky has released three product lines: thermal sensor for ADAS and AV systems, a customized system recently developed to monitor body temperature of passersby in crowded spaces, to detect persons potentially infected with Covid-19, and a thermal system for smart city applications.
Above: Winter driving in difficult visibility conditions – in Cognata’s synthetic simulator
Cognata was chosen to provide a simulator of LiDAR sensors signals to Seoul Robotics, which develops software for analyzing data coming from the sensors, in order to extract information about the vehicle’s environment. The collaboration deepens Cognata’s grip on the ADAS systems market. Founded in 2016 by the CEO Danny Atsmon, the Rehovot-based (near Tel aviv) Cognata has developed a virtual platform used to train and test autonomous vehicles even before the vehicle hits the road for field tests.
The system is based on several layers: a static environment, a dynamic environment, sensors and cloud interface. The static environment is built from realistic imaging of entire cities, including streets, trees, road defects, etc. The dynamic layer mimics the behavior of other drivers on the road and the sensor layer mimics the information coming from each of the 40 different sensors found today in autonomous vehicles.
The chosen imaging software of Innoviz
Cognata is well acquainted with the field of LiDAR. In December 2019, it was selected by Innoviz to test Innoviz’s LiDAR technology. Cognata’s software can simulates how Innoviz’s LiDAR signals are reflected from different surfaces and materials, and how the sensors will function under different road conditions. A few days later it was also chosen by the Rehovot-based Foresight to test its QuadSight system, based on the use of two infrared cameras and two visible-light cameras, to produce a stereoscopic (three-dimensional) machine vision capability.
The agreement with Seoul Robotics is Cognata’s second major deal in Korea. In August 2020, it was selected by Hyundai MOBIS to supply a simulator for the development of ADAS systems and autonomous vehicles. Hyundai MOBIS is a Tier 1 supplier of the Korean automotive industry and manufactures auto parts for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis Motors.
CEVA from Herzlya, Israel, announced that Renesas has licensed its DSP technology to develop an automotive System-on-Chip (SoC) for a new ADAS system of a a very large automotive manufacturer in Japan. “This is a monumental agreement”, said Gideon Wertheizer, CEO of CEVA, during the company’s earnings call for Q3, 2020. In fact, this design win put both CEVA and Renesas in a direct competition with Intel’s Mobileye and NVIDIA Drive.
Naoki Yoshida, Vice President at Renesas noted regardin the agreement: “In active safety and self-driving applications, DSP processing is a key IP for processing and segmenting sensor data generated by sensors on vehicles.” This is exactly what CEVA is doing: It provides IPs of Digital Signal Processors, AI processors, wireless platforms and complementary software for sensor fusion, image enhancement, computer vision, voice input and artificial intelligence.
During the conference call, Gideon Wertheizer revealed more interesting details: “The agreement is based on a project. Our customer (Renesas Electronics) won with a very large automotive manufacturer in Japan, for an ADAS solution for new L2+ and L3 cars, which are projected to start production by 2025. It’s a mid-range car, that means volume versus the premium part.”
CEVA is not unfamiliar with the automotive industry: It has Automotive agreements with On Semiconductor, Yamaha, Toshiba, Rohm, AutoTalks and others to provide IP blocks for Wi-Fi, V2X, cameras and more, but becoming a main technology provider for an ADAS system is something else. This is a strategic platform – the playground of giants. And it turns out that the giants may be too big for their clients.
Wertheizer: “NVIDIA and Mobileye push their own closed and vertically integrated solutions. But automotive Tier one and OEMs are seeking an open high-performance technology where they can take advantage of their in-house excellence while not being locked into a certain vendor. Our powerful DSPs, AI technologies and our collaborate business model set a comprehensive foundation that enable OEMs to become supplier agnostic and translate their innovation into a competitive edge.”
The Israeli Rail Vision signed a $10 million funding agreement with the German company Knorr-Bremse. The investment will be made at a company value of about $50 million, post-money valuation. This is a follow-on investment, arriving after an investment of $10 million made by the German company in March 2019. After the two investments, it will hold 36.79% of Rail Vision’s shares. The holdings of Foresight, which founded Rail Vision, will amount to 19.34%.
In addition, the agreement provides Real Vision with an option to call for an additional $5 million. Trains have difficulties dealing with unexpected obstacles because the braking distance of a high-speed moving train can reach up to half a mile on average, and so there is a need for a system that detects obstacles from a very long distance. Rail Vision has developed an early warning system that warns the locomotive driver of a potential collision with obstacles in all weather and lighting conditions. This is done using dedicated cameras that detect objects from a distance of slightly more than one mile (1.2 miles).
The camera array (pictured above) includes a visible light camera and two thermal cameras with complementary wavelengths. These in turn feed the information into an image processing and machine learning algorithm, which fuses all the information into a unified image and identifies the objects located on the train track. The algorithm is designed to identify objects relevant to the train’s setting, such as humans, animals, cars, bridges, interchanges, signs, signal marks along the track intended for the locomotive driver, etc.
Knorr’s investment is a strategic investment related to one of its key areas of activity. Its systems division manufactures braking, steering and control systems for trains and commercial vehicles. For the past 100 years, the parent company has been supplying driver assistance and braking systems for vehicles and trains. In 2019, its sales totaled about 6.6 billion euros.
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