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AI-Powered Chip Developer Horizon Robotics Raises $400 Million in Latest Funding Round

AI-Powered Chip Developer Horizon Robotics Raises $400 Million in Latest Funding Round

Author: Eric Walz   

The auto industry is truly global. Most vehicles are built with mechanical parts, electronics and other hardware from manufacturers all over the world, including in Japan, China, South Korea, Germany and the U.S. New companies in China are also developing AI-powered hardware that will support vehicles capable of level 3 and higher autonomous driving. One such company is Horizon Robotics Inc., which just announced a major fundraising round. 

Horizon Robotics announced on Jan. 7 it raised $400 million in its Series C2 financing, which is led by Chinese battery manufacturer CATL, one of the world's biggest suppliers of electric vehicle batteries to the auto industry, including Tesla. The news was reported by China's Gasgoo.

Other investors participating in the round include UK-based Baillie Gifford, YunFeng Capital and CITICPE. The new funding brings Horizon Robotics to 80% of its financing goal for its Series C round with $550 million raised to date, according to Gasgoo. 

Horizon Robotics was founded in 2015 and is based in Beijing. The company also has an office in Silicon Valley. 

The startup is seeking to dominate the market for powerful embedded AI-powered chips for the millions of autonomous driving vehicles that the company expects to be on the road in China by 2025.

China is the world's largest auto market and the demand for intelligent and connectivity technology is growing rapidly. 

Outside of the auto industry, Horizon is also developing AI-powered chipsets (SoCs) for robotics, smart cameras and other intelligent devices. The company plans to compete with more established chipmakers NVIDIA and Intel, both of which are supplying powerful chips to automakers and OEMs for new vehicles equipped with advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving capabilities.

The company said its will use the proceeds from its latest funding round to speed up the R&D and commercialization of the next-generation Level 4 and 5 automotive chips. Horizon Robotics provides a cost-effective and energy efficient automotive-grade AI platform.

Since 2015, Horizon Robotics has formed partnerships with many OEMs and tier 1 suppliers in China and abroad. The company supplies chipsets to Chinese automakers Changan Automobile, SAIC Motor, GAC Group, FAW Group, Li Auto, Chery Auto, Great Wall Motor, as well as German automaker Audi and global automotive suppliers Continental AG and Faurecia.

Horizon entered into its MoU with Continental in Sept 2020. Horizon The two companies work together on ADAS and autonomous driving applications with a focus on the Chinese market. Horizon will provide its automotive-grade AI processors and artificial intelligence algorithms in its cooperation with Continental.

Horizon Robotics plans to launch its latest chip called the "Journey 5" chip in the first half of 2021. The powerful Journey 5 chip is designed for Level 3/4 autonomous driving and features a whopping 96 tera operations per second (TeraFLOPS) of AI computing power, the company says.

The Journey family of chips include Horizon's proprietary deep learning engine, BPU (Brain Processing Unit), an ARM CPU sub-system and a dedicated Image Signal Processor (ISP) to support higher levels of automated driving.

China is pushing to become a world-leader in high-tech manufacturing as part of its "Made in China 2025" plan. As a result, Chinese investors have been pouring billions of dollars in companies developing technologies for the automotive sector. 

This sector includes electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, as well as shared mobility concepts, which are poised to disrupt the industry.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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