BMW is clearly aiming at creating next-level autonomous cars, you can tell by the companies they invest in. It’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is widely considered the next big thing in the automotive industry, forcing traditional car makers to shift focus and transform into technology companies rather than keep the status quo. BMW set up a special division in this regard, with the sole purpose of finding great start-ups and invest in them to make sure the technologies they develop are shared with BMW.
The BMW i Ventures arm just announced yet another one of these strategic investments, this time in a company called Graphcore. The company has offices around the world, from Bristol, UK to London, Oslo, Norway, Palo Alto California and even Beijing in China, and is developing a Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU). This is the first processor to be designed specifically for Machine Intelligence and delivers between 10x to 100x speed up compared to today’s hardware.
“The versatility of Graphcore’s IPU – which supports multiple machine learning techniques with high efficiency – is well-suited for a wide variety of applications from intelligent voice assistants to self-driving vehicles,” said Tobias Jahn, Principal at BMW i Ventures. “With the flexibility to use the same processor in both a data center and a vehicle, Graphcore’s IPU also presents the possibility of reductions in development times and complexity.”
The company managed to raise some $300 million so far in the two years since it was founded. The investment from BMW i Ventures is a further step towards fulfilling the company’s ambition to build a global technology company, focused on this new and fast-growing machine intelligence market. Microsoft also seems interested in the company and joined BMW in this round of financing, Graphcore raising $200 million in this round alone, its value being estimated at $1.5 billion right now.