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How Hungary Emerged as a Shaper of the Future of Autonomous Driving

In recent years, Hungary has started to emerge as a powerhouse and a leader in the global autonomous driving industry.
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In recent years, Hungary has started to emerge as a powerhouse in the global autonomous driving industry. Fueled by domestic innovation and a skilled workforce, the Central European country has seen autonomous driving startups and companies attracting significant investments and developing technologies and solutions that are becoming the backbone of the autonomous driving revolution. 

All of this has been spearheaded by a mix of innovative domestic companies like AiMotive and Commsignia and established industry players such as German company Continental Automotive, which has several manufacturing units in the country, as well as a Deep Machine Learning competence center in the capital of Budapest.

The country has also seen the formation of RECAR (Research Center for Autonomous Road Vehicles) – an extensive organization that aims to bridge academic and industrial knowledge, integrating education and research, enabling the training of highly skilled professionals and strengthening the foundation for research and development. 

The center utilizes laboratories spanning four levels for education and research on autonomous vehicles, accommodating tools and devices in larger halls and nearly 20 smaller labs. In addition to its advanced laboratories, the center hosts programs that provide specialized education in autonomous vehicle technology, aiming to enhance students’ skills and knowledge in this field.

The crucial role of domestic enterprises

Among the country’s leaders of innovation, AiMotive stands tall. Founded in 2015, this Hungarian startup has become a leading force in the automated driving industry across Europe, and claims to house one of the largest AI research teams in Europe. Founded by CEO Laszlo Kinhoti, who has extensive background in graphic performance measurement software, the company now has more than 200 employees, working across offices in the US, Japan, Hungary and Germany. 

AiMotive’s comprehensive approach, encompassing software, simulation, and hardware platforms, has solidified its position as a trusted automotive supplier on the global market, with strategic investors such as Robert Bosch Venture Capital, B Capital Group, Prime Ventures, Inventure, and Samsung Catalyst Fund. 

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Its solutions, including the aiDrive software stack and the dedicated neural network accelerator aiWare have been recognized by a tech giant like Sony, with the aiDrive software stack serving as the foundation for Sony’s revolutionary prototype vehicle, the VISION-S

The company is also one the most-funded automated driving software suppliers in Europe, with a total funding of $75M. At the end of 2022, AiMotive was acquired by automotive giant Stellantis, and now operates as one of its subsidiaries. 

In the realm of connected car and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) technology, another Hungarian company, Commsignia, stands out. Established in 2012 by industry experts, Commsignia has been at the forefront of V2X technology research and applications. Today the company has more than 140 employees worldwide, and is present in automotive hubs such as the US, South Korea and Germany. 

With a focus on traffic safety and efficiency, Commsignia’s solutions aim to bridge the gap between vehicles and infrastructure, creating a seamless communication network. Last month, the company announced a $​​15M Series B funding round featuring investors such as Budapest-based Day One Capital, Credo Ventures, LG Electronics, Samsung Catalyst Fund, and Qualcomm Ventures among others.

The company’s hardware and software solutions have paved the way for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Commsignia is also a pioneer with its connectivity platform that integrates with various car sensors, applications, and everyday technologies.

According to Csaba Kákosy from Day One Capital, an early-stage tech investor that has worked with both companies since 2016, the success of the two companies is a testimony to the work that industry experts have put during the last decade.

“Commsignia and aiMotive, with over 90 patents, are key players in advancing smart mobility in Hungary, showcasing the nation’s innovation potential. However, it’s crucial to recognize that progress in automotive technology requires time and patience, not just from the companies but also from investors. The industry’s lengthy sales cycles necessitate a steadfast commitment to long-term goals,” Kákosy tells The Recursive.

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The future of autonomous driving in Hungary

The rise of such domestic companies signifies Hungary’s position as a technological innovator, which in the long run promises to position the country and its ecosystem as a hub for autonomous driving, experts claim.

“With its robust automotive industry, Hungary lays a fertile ground for innovations in autonomous driving, underscored by the country’s excellent STEM education and a rich pool of machine learning talent. This combination, plus the talent pool who gained experience through working for some of the already successful scale-ups (e.g NNG, Commsignia, aiMotive) uniquely positions Hungary as a burgeoning hub for developing cutting-edge mobility and autonomous driving technologies,” Csongor Bias, managing director of Startup Hungary, tells The Recursive.

The evolution of the worldwide automotive sector is anticipated to gain momentum in the coming five to ten years and Hungary can use this to its advantage and become an unconventional automotive powerhouse.

“Although Hungary is not a traditional automotive powerhouse, unlike almost all Central European countries, which all have their own domestic brands and manufacturing industry, there are now three Hungarian companies – AiMotive, NNG, and Commsignia – that have already become major global players in the car industry. And while these companies do not make cars, they focus on intellectual property, and work to empower cars with what they do not have today, and focus on self-driving, smart solutions and providing enjoyable driving experiences,” Budapest based tech journalist Istvan Toth tells The Recursive.

Furthermore, Hungary’s growing reputation as a prominent automotive center also helps this case.

“Both Commsignia and aiMotive actively engage with students, providing them with opportunities for employment, often leading to full-time contracts. Furthermore, Hungary’s status as an automotive hub is a significant advantage. With the presence of numerous tier 1 automotive suppliers in the country, students have the opportunity to gain practical experience and exposure to cutting-edge technology through internships and university programs,” Kákosy explains.

Additionally, he points out that this hands-on engagement within the automotive industry sets helps foster a well-prepared talent pool for the smart mobility sector.

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Bojan is The Recursive’s Western Balkans Editor, covering tech, innovation, and business for more than a decade. He’s currently exploring blockchain, Industry 4.0, AI, and is always open to covering diverse and exciting topics in the Western Balkans countries. His work has been featured in global media outlets such as Foreign Policy, WSJ, ZDNet, and Balkan Insight.