Audi is turning to Israeli startup Cognata to help the automaker validate its autonomous vehicles in the virtual world before they head out on the road for testing.

Autonomous Intelligent Driving, Audi’s self-driving unit led by a team of former Microsoft, Tesla, and internal Audi veterans, says it will use Cognata’s autonomous vehicle simulation platform to test and develop its technology.

AID says the multi-year partnership will help it bring its self-driving vehicles to market faster. The partnership illustrates the demand for advanced simulation technology as companies race to safely develop and deploy autonomous vehicles.

“At AID, we are convinced that simulation is a key tool to increase our development speed and a necessary one for the validation of our product and for proving it is safe” according to AID CTO Alex Haag, who had a brief stint at secretive self-driving startup Zoox and as a senior manager on Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot team.

The deal also highlights the growing ecosystem of Israeli startups, many of which developed technology initially designed for military, such as drones and other defense applications, only to find a hungry customer base within the autonomous vehicle industry.

Cognata, which raised $5 million last year from Airbus Ventures, Emerge and Maniv Mobility, recreates cities in its 3D simulation platform to give customers a variety of testing scenarios. The platform pulls in layers of data to help build these virtual environments. It starts with recreating real cities, adds in AI-based traffic models to simulate real-world conditions as well as data from the vehicle’s sensors.

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