Robot delivery firm Kiwibot buys Taipei chipmaker, citing US/China tensions

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Bay Area/Colombia-based delivery robotics firm Kiwibot this week announced that it has acquired Auto Mobility Solutions. The Taipei firm produces chips specifically for the world of robotics and autonomous driving. Details of the transaction have not been disclosed. Kiwi founder and CEO Felipe Chávez Cortés does, however, tell TechCrunch that rising tensions between the U.S. and China are a key motivator for the purchase.

Kiwibot calls the deal a “significant milestone in both companies’ journeys toward innovation and safeguarding privacy in the robotics industry, particularly for intelligent robots sourced from China and deployed in the Western markets.

This is likely going to be an instructive model for many in the industry, in light of the Senate’s big push for ByteDance to sell its massively successful social media platform, TikTok. Prior to this, the U.S. government had set its sights on various Chinese tech giants, including Huawei and DJI.

Taiwan’s tenuous geopolitical situation, coupled with its vastly outsized share of the semiconductor market, has placed it at the center of the conflict. Some in the government have even gone so far as suggesting the United States bomb Taiwanese chip giant TSMC should the island nation be invaded by China. Control over the company’s facilities would give a country a near monopoly for certain chip verticals.

Smaller operations like Auto Mobility Solutions are less likely to be an immediate focus, though it’s worth pointing out that the company produces chips in both Taipei and Shenzhen, the latter of which is located in South China, now a 20-minute subway ride from Hong Kong.

In a statement tied to the news, Chávez Cortés cites cybersecurity concerns as a key motivator. “The acquisition of Auto is a game-changer for us, bringing a wealth of technological innovation and a strong patent portfolio that will significantly enhance our cybersecurity measures for AI-powered robotics,” he notes. “This move not only strengthens our position in the market but also connects the manufacturing expertise from Asia with the AI development in the West securely.”

Kiwibot says the deal will also help the UC Berkeley spinout establish a presence in Asia, owing to Auto’s footprint in Taiwan and China. Kiwi has thus far found its biggest successes on college campuses.

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