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21 August, 2020 - 14:44 By Tony Quested

Tech entrepreneur joins RoboK from McLaren

Cambridge University spin-out RoboK has pulled off a major coup by attracting Andy Walker from McLaren Applied Technologies as chief commercial officer as it scales its technology in a number of market sectors, including automotive.

RoboK secured initial funding from strategic investors including AI Seed, Amadeus Capital Partners, Martlet, u-blox AG and Cambridge Enterprise.

This investment has enabled the company to focus on developing its core technology AI-based perception algorithms for low-power computing platforms and to build a team in Cambridge.

RoboK has developed a new method for fusing raw sensor data and performing depth estimation on low-power computing platforms. This method allows rich information to be preserved for more advanced functionalities, paving the way for truly scalable ADAS/AV systems.

The company is working closely with industry partners and this includes collaboration with Siemens Digital Industries Software to build and validate advanced driving systems in virtual environments.

Walker previously co-founded two software startups in Cambridge – Vocalis and M-spatial– raising a number of investment rounds, and was part of a management team executing a successful IPO. He then became commercial director at McLaren Applied Technologies.

The RoboK team was initially highlighted in Business Weekly in 2017 as winner of the King’s College Entrepreneurship Prize. It has since more than doubled its team based at Cambridge’s Eagle Labs. 

Through its collaboration with Siemens Digital Industries Software, RoboK is now actively working with a number of early adopters from the automotive sector. 

Walker said: “RoboK has received a lot of recognition in a very short space of time for the disruptive new technologies it is developing and this year in particular has seen the company grow as planned with key additions to our specialist team. 

“This enables continued rapid progress in developing the core technology, in parallel with accelerating the expansion of our already strong connections with new customers and partners within the automotive market and other sectors.”  

RoboK’s 3D perception algorithms perform sensor fusion, enabling the virtual vehicle to ‘see’ its environment. The virtual environments are built upon PAVE360, a pre- silicon autonomous validation environment, that offers a complete, closed-loop simulation solution, enabling AV and ADAS designers to make sure that every software or hardware design iteration can be tested and validated virtually, quickly and, most importantly, before any hardware is produced.

RoboK and Siemens Digital Industries Software are collaborating to create a virtual environment for developing, testing and validating advanced driving systems. The company was chosen by Siemens to create a closed-loop simulation capable of testing an entire vehicle with an unlimited number of complex driving simulations. 

Co-founder and CEO Hao Zheng says the technology is enabling cars to ‘see’ and ‘understand’ the implications of changes to their environment. 

She says: “Advanced driving features, which range from collision avoidance and automatic lane-keeping through to fully automated driving, require miles of road test driving to ensure their safety. 

“Although simulation provides a resource-efficient alternative it can be time-consuming. To accurately and realistically simulate all elements in the entire system it can take many hours to run and process even a single driving scenario.

“With the proprietary software developed by our team, which can run on general-purpose and low-power computing platforms, we can shorten the processing time from hours to seconds, drastically improving the efficiency of system-level validation and testing. 

“We have reduced the computation time by developing a significant new method for fusing raw data directly from a range of sensors, such as cameras, radars, GPS and IMU, as well as for performing depth estimation to gain 3D information, all running on low-power computing platforms.

“This significantly reduces the memory and computing requirement. When this is combined with our novel and highly optimised AI-based perception modules, intelligent insights can be gained rapidly and efficiently, which is vital for fast decision-making.” 

RoboK is a spin-out from the University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology.

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