BMW boosts tech startup fund as self-driving challenge grows
MUNICH -- BMW plans to boost its investments in startups, as competition intensifies with rivals over technologies that make cars smarter and more energy efficient.
The luxury-car maker will invest as much as 500 million euros ($533 million) through its iVentures capital fund over 10 years, having started it in 2011 with 100 million euros, BMW said Monday in a statement. The fund will add autonomous driving to its investment areas and expand its reach from the U.S. to Europe and Asia.
“The mobility of the future and of our industry is being defined by technological change that’s accelerating,” said BMW’s head of development Klaus Froehlich. “To be successful one must shape this change and gain access to the best ideas.”
Traditional carmakers are turning to start-ups for help in developing technologies required for a future dominated by self-driving cars, ride-sharing services and electric vehicles. So far iVentures has acquired a stake in San Francisco-based RideCell, which creates car-sharing and ride-booking software, and invested in public transit and battery-charging apps.
While BMW has been slow to roll out EVs, it has gained traction with its own car-sharing brand, which operates in European cities under the DriveNow banner and in the U.S. as ReachNow. In addition to investing in start-ups, BMW owns a stake in real-time maps joint venture HERE, co-owned by rivals Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi.
BMW’s most recent model launches have included autonomous driving elements such as cars that respond to hand-gestures and help drivers stay in lane.
The fund, which is moving its headquarters to Silicon Valley from New York, will now be operated as a separate unit run by Ulrich Quay and Uwe Higgen, the company said.