BMW partners with AI robotics startup Figure to deploy humanoid robots in U.S. plants and take on Tesla
AI robotics startup Figure announced on Thursday it signed a partnership with BMW Manufacturing to deploy its humanoid robots at BMW’s facility in the U.S. The move reflects a growing trend among companies to utilize human-like robots for specific physical tasks.
This is Figure’s first commercial deal since its inception two years ago. Although the exact number of robots BMW plans to use remains undisclosed, Figure CEO Brett Adcock, CEO at Figure revealed that the partnership will commence with a small quantity, with the potential for expansion based on performance outcomes.
The news of the partnership comes less than a year after Figure raised $70 million to build autonomous humanoid robots. The round was led by Parkway Venture Capital. Although the exact valuation of the one-year-old company was not disclosed, a reliable source familiar with the firm estimated its value to exceed $400 million.
According to a report from Reuters, Figure’s humanoid robots will be stationed at BMW’s manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the largest automotive exporter in the U.S., employing 11,000 individuals. Over the next 12-24 months, these robots will undergo training to handle specific tasks across various manufacturing processes, including the body shop, sheet metal, and warehouse.
Adcock also emphasized the safety aspect of Figure’s robot design, ensuring seamless collaboration with human workers. The CEO expressed the significance of working with BMW on automation in a manufacturing setting as a substantial validation for Figure in the robotics space.
“We have designed the robot to be safe next to humans. Working with BMW on automation in a manufacturing facility is a huge validator for us in the space,” Adcock said.
BMW’s partnership with Figure aligns with a broader industry trend where car manufacturers, ranging from Honda to Hyundai, have been exploring the use of humanoid robots for repetitive and hazardous tasks on assembly lines. Notably, Tesla has also introduced its latest humanoid robot, Optimus Gen 2, with CEO Elon Musk envisioning a billion humanoid robots on Earth by the 2040s.
Investor interest in general-purpose humanoid robots equipped with AI-powered software has surged, given their potential to execute a wide range of motions and adapt to new tasks similar to humans. While existing robots are typically designed for specific tasks, the viability of more flexible robots capable of diverse services in real-life environments remains uncertain.
Founded in 2022, the Sunnyvale, California-based Figure is building humanoid robots designed for initial deployment into the workforce to address labor shortages and support the supply chain on a global scale.
In recent months, Figure made notable hires across AI, Controls, Manipulation, Perception, and Commercial Operations. Figure’s latest hire, Bob Klunk, joined the team as Head of Warehouse Solutions to help bring Figure 01 into its first real-world application. Bob, former SVP of Operations at Geodis, is a fulfillment operations veteran and brings over two decades of warehouse experience to the team.