Stellantis Acquires Autonomous Driving Software Startup aiMotive
Stellantis, the parent company of the Jeep and Chrysler brands, is acquiring autonomous driving software startup aiMotive as the automaker looks to expand the autonomous driving and connectivity capabilities of its future vehicles.
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
As the world's automakers race to advance autonomous driving technology, many are forming partnerships with tech startups for assistance. The acquisition of aiMotive will help Stellantis to jumpstart its autonomous driving development.
aiMotive is Budapest, Hungary-based developer of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous driving software. The company also has offices in Germany, the U.S and Japan.
The tech startup's engineers have advanced artificial intelligence and autonomous driving expertise. aiMotive is focused on the advancement of a vision-based autonomous driving technology that relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to detect its surroundings. It's similar to Tesla's Autopilot, which is a computer vision-based system.
As part of the deal, aiMotive will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary of Stellantis and maintain its startup culture. aiMotive's Founder László Kishonti will remain as CEO.
aiMotive's technology is focused on four key areas within artificial intelligence and autonomous driving. The company's aiDrive includes the embedded software stack for autonomous driving; aiData is the AI and data tooling platform; aiWare comprises the company's expertise and intellectual property for silicon microchips, while aiSim includes software simulation tools for development and refinement of autonomous driving systems.
aiMotive will continue to offer these specialized technology platforms to other companies along with Stellantis.
"Acquiring aiMotive's world-class artificial intelligence and autonomous driving technology is an important contribution to becoming a sustainable mobility tech company," said Yves Bonnefont, Stellantis Chief Software Officer. "aiMotive's class-leading expertise and startup spirit will accelerate our journey to deliver our Dare Forward 2030 goals."
aiMotive's in-car dashboard test on prototype vehicle.
The acquisition of aiMotive will also help Stellantis to boost its global talent pool for the ongoing development of the automaker's all-new STLA AutoDrive platform. The comprehensive autonomous driving technology stack includes three core technologies, the "STLA Brain", "STLA Smart Cockpit" and "STLA AutoDrive." These platforms will be deployed at scale across Stellantis models starting in 2024.
The STLA Brain is a new cloud-based electrical/electronic (E/E) and software architecture for Stellantis vehicles. It allows for the deployment of new features and services via over-the-air software updates without having to update any hardware on the vehicle. The always-connected platform is powered by Amazon.
The AI-powered Stellantis STLA SmartCockpit transforms the vehicle into a personalized living space. It allows passengers to interact with their vehicle based on inputs ranging from touch and natural voice and gestures. It supports features such as navigation, voice assistance, an e-commerce marketplace and payment services.
STLA AutoDrive was developed in partnership with BMW. The platform will offer Level 2, 2+ and 3 autonomous driving capabilities which will be kept continuously upgraded via OTA software updates. For higher levels of automated driving, Stellantis is partnering with Alphabet's autonomous driving unit Waymo, which is widely considered to be the leading company in the field. Waymo spun out of Google's self-driving car project, which began in 2009.
The acquisition of aiMotive by Stellantis comes as automakers Ford Motor Co and Volkswagen recently walked away from their own partnership with Pittsburgh-based autonomous driving startup Argo AI. Ford and Volkswagen have been working with Argo AI on the development of autonomous driving technology for the past several years.
Argo AI was a little known Pittsburgh-based autonomous driving and robotics startup when Ford invested a $1 billion to acquire a majority stake in the company in Feb 2017. At the time, Ford was looking to advance its own autonomous driving development with assistance from the startup.
In July 2020, Volkswagen announced it closed on its own $2.6 billion investment in Argo AI. The partnership allowed Ford and Volkswagen to share development costs of self-driving technology.
However, the widespread deployment of autonomous driving technology has been slower than expected in the auto industry. As a result, Argo AI announced it is shutting down and being reabsorbed back into Ford and VW.
Ford will instead focus its efforts on the development of advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and other safety technology that requires a driver's attention, rather than a hands off the steering wheel approach to autonomy.
Stellantis however will continue working with new partners to advance autonomous driving.
In April, the automaker launched a venture capital fund named "Stellantis Ventures" that will help support innovative startups working on advanced mobility solutions for the auto industry, such as autonomous driving, software, advanced materials, vehicle connectivity and related technology.
Stellantis Ventures will initially invest US$331 million in early and late-stage startup companies developing technologies that could be deployed within the mobility sector.
Stellantis Ventures serves as a strategic investor to assist startups integrate their technologies within the company with timeframes of just a few months, rather than years.
Completion of the acquisition of ai.Motive by Stellantis is still subject to customary closing conditions, including the satisfaction of antitrust requirements.
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