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Despite Dieselgate, Volkswagen Finds $180 Million to Invest in AI Startup

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【Summary】Volkswagen may be dealing with the ramifications of its emissions-cheating diesels, but the automaker decided to invest $180 million in Mobvoi Inc., a Chinese artificial intelligence startup.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Apr 11, 2017 12:05 PM PT
Despite Dieselgate, Volkswagen Finds $180 Million to Invest in AI Startup

Saying that Volkswagen is in deep over its emissions-cheating diesels is putting it nicely. The German automaker has millions of cars sitting idly by in the U.S. until it figures out a fix to get the vehicles to stop emitting harmful pollutants into the environment. In spite of its troubles, VW still sees the benefits of getting behind self-driving tech before the segment gets saturated. 

Volkswagen Looks To Stay Afloat 

According to a report from Bloomberg, Volkswagen has invested $180 million into Mobvoi Inc., a Chinese artificial intelligence startup that's backed by Google. The move is VW's attempt to enter the driverless market. 

As the report points out, Mobvoi Inc. was founded in 2012 by a former group of Google employees. The artificial intelligence company develops various types of tech, including Chinese language speech recognition, natural language processing, and vertical mobile search. Mobvoi Inc., as Bloomberg reports, will be in charge of developing components for VW-branded vehicles and possibly some others. 

The products will be based off of Mobvoi Inc.'s voice-recognition and natural language processing technology, which includes messaging and information through voice input, as well as a smart rear view mirror that provides navigation reports Bloomberg

Google, as Bloomberg reports, led Mobvoi Inc.'s last round of financing, which took place in 2015, valuing the tech company at $300 million. The act of investing in Mobvoi Inc. was the first time Google directly did so in China since pulling its search service out of the country in 2010, which was because of disagreements with the country's government, claims the report. 

Google isn't the only major company to invest in Mobvoi Inc., as other iconic capital firms, including ZhenFund and Sequoia have invested large amounts of money into the company, as well. Last year, Mobvoi Inc. became an official partner to Google's Android Wear software, as Bloomberg reports, making its voice-search services embedded into the operating system's wearable devices.

Mobvoi Inc. Wants To Expand

Mobvoi Inc. may be a Chinese startup, but the company has been attempting to enter the U.S. market for some time now. Last year, the tech company began selling its second-gen smartwatch in the country, reports Bloomberg. The company's Ticwatch was a huge hit in China because of its features, which include voice-activated search and touch-sensitive strip for scrolling.  

Chinese technology giants, as Bloomberg points out, have become major players in the battle to turn the automotive industry on its head. Last month, Tencent, a Chinese Internet giant purchased five percent of Tesla. Far East Smarter Energy Group entered into a joint venture worth a claimed $1.8 billion last month with Detroit Electric to jumpstart the company's Lotus-based electric vehicles.

The decision for Volkswagen to enter the segment, especially in the midst of the automaker's problems reveals just how desperate automakers are to stay ahead of the pack.

via: Bloomberg

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