According to New Intellectual Driving ( 新智驾), Black Sesame Technologies (黑芝麻智能科技) has nearly completed its 100 million Series B Financing round which will be used to expand cooperation with OEMs, accelerate mass production, reference design development of autopilot controllers, and software-vehicle integration.
After this financing round, the company and other global leading automakers plan to launch L3 and L4 vehicles which can be mass produced based on Black Sesame’s HS-1000 artificial intelligence driving platform.
This round is led by eight investors: Legend Capital Management Co., Ltd (君联资本), Junhai Capital (基金君海), SAIC Motor (上汽集团), SK Property Group Co., Ltd (SK中国), China Merchants Venture (招商局创投), Delta Capital (达泰资本), FengHe Group (风和资本), and Northern Light Venture Capital (北极光创投).
SAIC, FAW (一汽), BYD (比亚迪), and NIO have reached a cooperation agreement with Black Sesame Technologies. Didi and Bosch have also established strategic cooperation with the company.
Black Sesame Technologies specializes in “codesigning industrial AI solutions from the chip level all the way” to its application. Their founding team builds “complete hardware and software solutions for machine vision applications.”
The company was founded a year before its competitor, Horizon Robotics, who develop algorithms, processors, software, hardware, and cloud infrastructure. In addition, unlike Black Sesame Technologies, Horizon Robotics received a staggering USD 600 million in its Series B funding led by SK Group, a South Korean conglomerate.
The funding at the time was to “reduce dependence on imported semiconductors,” according to South China Morning Post.
According to New Intellectual Driving, Black Sesame Technologies is aiming to tackle two key issues of autonomous driving: chip power consumption and computing power. The company believes that the L3 needs more than 30T computing power which it must first include image processing and neural network computing. Back in 2017, Horizon Robotics had “launched its Horizon Matrix Autonomous Driving Computing Platform to provide high-performance sensing abilities for Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous driving systems.”
Horizon Robotics appears to be a step ahead of Black Sesame Technologies. However, while Horizon Robotics is backed by bigger and more widely known investors, Black Sesame Technologies is simultaneously getting a similar amount of attention.
With the China-US trade war, China’s policies are calling for more self-reliance. Therefore, it’s likely that companies requiring strong AI chips are investing more in domestic companies. This will ultimately force companies to tackle pressing problems in the market to sustain its competitive edge.
In addition, how well companies control their supply chain will present which is more efficient and effective, an attractive trait for investors. However, this will also increase domestic competition and may ultimately saturate the market.
Black Sesame Technologies has already developed “in-vehicle monitoring systems” that monitors bad driving behaviour, face recognition capability, and driver fatigue. As the company continue to use appropriate industry giants as stepping stones to grow their company.