FASTEST COMPUTER IN THE INDUSTRY: CONTINENTAL ACCELERATES AI DEVELOPMENT USING SUPERCOMPUTER
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Frankfurt am Main. Continental is accelerating the development of future technologies with a supercomputer that is unrivaled in the automotive industry. With the networking of an unusually high-performance computer system based on technology from NVIDIA (InfiniBand-connected DGX), Continental is setting an as yet unmatched new milestone for the development of artificial intelligence (AI). This is required for the development of pioneering future technologies in assisted, automated and autonomous driving, for example. And by doing so, the technology company is underlining its core competencies in software and networking as well as in the architecture of systems.
The new supercomputer consists of more than 50 networked “NVIDIA DGX” units – with each one worth just as much as a luxury sports car. These have been working together in a data center in Frankfurt am Main since early 2020. From this new computer cluster, the developers at Continental’s locations around the world get the computing power and storage that they need for highly complex and data-intensive developments – including, in particular, those relating to AI. The new supercomputer from Continental is ranked according to the current list of TOP500 supercomputers as the top system in the automotive industry.
“The supercomputer accelerates our development, which leads in terms of technology,” said Christian Schumacher, head of Program Management Systems in Continental’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems business unit. “The high-end computer will be used in particular for innovative software disciplines such as deep learning and AI-driven simulations,” he explained. “With the computing power we have now gained, we can develop the modern systems we need for assisted, automated and autonomous vehicles in a much quicker, more effective and more cost-efficient way. We use these to simulate real-life, physical test drives – and need fewer journeys actually on the road as a result. By doing so, we are significantly reducing the time required for programming, including the training of artificial neural networks.”
Continental’s developers are thus strengthening their expertise in what is known as “deep learning” – in which an artificial neural network enables machines to learn by experience and connect new information with existing knowledge, essentially imitating the learning process within the human brain. Without supercomputers, several thousand hours of training involving millions of images and therefore enormous amounts of data are necessary to train a neural network. The high-performance computer now reduces the time needed for this process, taking it down from weeks to hours.
Continental is a software powerhouse with more than 20,000 software and IT experts
The investment that it has made in the automotive industry’s most powerful supercomputer system is a further step in Continental’s strategy for the future: concentrating on key areas for innovation, such as software and digitalization. More than 20,000 of the more than 51,000 engineers working for Continental are experts in the areas of software and IT. Continental already employs more than 900 experts in AI, and by 2022, it will have about 1,900. “Software is the oxygen of the industry,” said Dr. Elmar Degenhart, Chairman of the Executive Board at Continental. “It lays the foundation for entirely new services. Value creation with software is recording double-digit percentage growth each year.” For example, with the development of high-performance computers – the digital heart of vehicles – Continental already generates lifetime sales exceeding €3 billion. A single customer alone will have received more than 2.5 million of such compact high-performance computers by 2022. This puts Continental among the front-running companies in the industry. A particularly high-performance vehicle server was recently developed for Volkswagen. This In-Car Application Server (ICAS1) enables a high degree of vehicle connectivity for the new electric vehicles in VW’s ID model series – such as the ability to quickly and securely install safety updates via a wireless connection. By 2022, Continental expects more than ten further projects.