In some ways it was a short walk to Nvidia for the automakers, many of which were using Nvidia’s graphics cards in their computer aided design systems. It was a known entity. That is not the case with many new suppliers that are entering the automotive sector, but the difference is that car manufacturers and suppliers are more willing to engage with less established startups. Some companies are actively courting them.
By Audi’s standards, Cubic Telecom, a 7-year-old Irish machine-to-machine connectivity platform provider with 85 employees, is a minnow. Yet the young company impressed Audi so much that just a year after they were introduced, Audi bought 20 percent of the company through its subsidiary, Audi Electronics Venture. At the same time, next-generation mobile technologies company Qualcomm bought a 16 percent stake, putting their combined investment in Cubic Telecom at $18 million.
Cubic Telecom’s major breakthrough came in 2014 when it caught Audi’s attention with an in-car connectivity system it developed for another automaker to launch in China.
“I think we impressed Audi with our ideas but also with our ability to implement them very quickly,” Cubic Telecom CEO Barry Napier said.
Even younger than Cubic Telecom is Unreal Engine Enterprise, a newly created division of video games development company Epic Games. Unreal Engine Enterprise is at the leading edge of real-time rendering technology within the interactive entertainment industry and develops technologies for visualization and simulation projects in both 3-D and virtual reality.
Those capabilities are now attracting the attention of the automotive industry and have already led to projects with Jaguar, BMW, McLaren Automotive and Toyota’s Australian unit.
“The vast majority of automakers using Unreal Engine Enterprise are adopting VR technology at a frantic rate across retail, training, engineering and design in particular as it solves lots of problems, such as how to test a growing proliferation of styling ideas or new user interface technologies,” Simon Jones, director of Unreal Engine Enterprise, told Automotive News Europe. “It is also highly relevant for autonomous driving as an autonomous car is essentially building a picture of the scene around it. The more accurate that scene is, the more accurate and safer the vehicle will be.”
Jones said that since automakers now are hiring people from less traditional sectors, such as computer gaming, it is easier for companies such as Unreal Engine Enterprise to be taken seriously by automakers.
He said, “These people often already know us and through working with them we get visibility higher up the management chain.”