Volkswagen announces $180M investment in Chinese arfiticial intelligence tech startup

By Charleston Lim on Apr 07, 2017 09:09 AM EDT

Volkswagen is actually one of the pioneering foreign automotive manufacturers that have sold cars in China. Due to this fact, it comes as no surprise that the German brand has now announced a $180 million investment in a relatively new Chinese startup company called Mobvoi.

The money that Volkswagen is putting up will reportedly be for a joint-venture with the smart automotive technology startup company to further "develop and apply AI technologies to automotive industry." Volkswagen and Mobvoi will reportedly share a 50-50 ownership of the venture.

Mobvoi is relatively new in the automotive tech market as they are actually best known for their Ticwatch smartwatch, which the company originally launched on Kickstarter. The company was founded by former Google employee, Zhifei Li.

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Prior to Volkswagen announcement, the tech startup had already raised close to $75 million from different investors, which reportedly includes an undisclosed amount from Google in 2015.

The company recently developed a smart rear-view mirror last year that caught the eye of the German carmaker. Being one of their more popular products, a report from Tech Crunch reveals that Mobvoi's smart rear-view mirrors may be one of the first products that may be developed specifically for future Volkswagen vehicles.

Mobvoi's smart mirror is integrated with several functionalities, including messaging, navigation, notifications, and other features.

Aside from the smart rear-view mirror, CNBC claims that Volkswagen may be looking into integrating Mobvoi's artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology into their vehicles.

"We are impressed by Mobvoi's innovative approach of AI technology, and we are pleased to form this joint venture to explore the next generation of smart mobility," the CEO of Volkswagen China, Dr. Jochem Heizmann, mentioned in a statement.

Volkswagen's success in the Chinese market continues up to this day as the company reportedly sold more than 10.3 million vehicles in the country last year. That figure officially made Volkswagen the biggest automobile seller, not just in China, but across the world.

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