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Blockchain Capital to raise $50 million, partly with digital token sale

´╗┐NEW YORK U.S.-based venture capital firm Blockchain Capital LLC said on Thursday it plans to raise $50 million for a third fund through capital from its partners and a sale of its own digital tokens. Blockchain Capital invests in companies and start-ups that use blockchain, a ledger of transactions that first emerged as the software underpinning bitcoin and is maintained by a network of computers. The company's co-founder and managing partner, Brock Pierce, told Reuters in an interview that the bulk of the capital will come from the firm's partners, and the rest will be raised through an "initial coin offering" (ICO) of its digital tokens, called BCAP. Over the past year, digital technology start-ups have raised cash by creating and selling their own currencies in offerings without the help of banks or venture capital firms.

The sale of Blockchain Capital's BCAP tokens would be the first by a venture capital firm."Our view is that these ICOs are going to be hugely disruptive to the early stage ecosystem because the biggest problem with early stage ventures, whether you're a limited partner in a fund or an angel investor, or a VC (venture capital) investing in a start-up is just a general lack of liquidity," said Pierce.

The firm's co-founder was a former Hollywood child star who has appeared in films like "First Kid" and the "The Mighty Ducks". Pierce said the tokens would be issued by a Singapore entity that will be created by the U.S. venture capital company. The tokens would represent a fraction of ownership in a new fund called Blockchain Capital III Digital Liquid Venture Fund, LP.

Details of the token sale will be disclosed in an offering memorandum to be published on April 3. The tokens, when issued, may be traded on digital asset exchanges. "The token issuance will be a small part of our fund," Pierce said. "We're doing it to pioneer the market. We also believe we are democratizing access to an asset class traditionally only available to elite institutional investors."About $225 million has been raised in 2016 in 40 initial coin offerings

Car industry players diverge on timescale for self driving cars

´╗┐Carmakers and suppliers gave widely differing timelines for the introduction of self-driving vehicles on Thursday, showing the uncertainties surrounding the technology as well as a split between cautious established players and bullish new entrants. Chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA. O), facing direct competition with the world's top chipmaker after Intel's (INTC. O) $15 billion deal to buy autonomous driving technology firm Mobileye (MBLY. N) this week, gave the most optimistic predictions. Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang forecast carmakers may speed up their plans in the light of technological advances and that fully self-driving cars could be on the road by 2025."Because of deep learning, because of AI (artificial intelligence) computing, we've really supercharged our roadmap to autonomous vehicles," he said in a keynote speech to the Bosch Connected World conference in Berlin. Germany's Bosch [ROBG. UL], however, the world's biggest automotive supplier, gave a timetable as much as six years longer to get to the final stage before fully autonomous vehicles, and declined even to forecast when a totally self-driving car might take to the streets. Progress is fraught by issues including who is liable when a self-driving car has an accident, bringing down the costs of sensor technology and guarding against hacking."Of course, we still have to prove that an autonomous car does better in driving and has less accidents than a human being," Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner told a news conference. Nvidia has applied its market-leading expertise in high-end computer graphics to the intense visualization and simulation needs of autonomous cars, and has been working on artificial intelligence - teaching computers to learn to write their own software code - for a decade.

"No human could write enough code to capture the vast diversity and complexity that we do so easily, called driving," said Huang. Together with Bosch executives, Huang presented a prototype AI on-board computer that is expected to go into production by the beginning of the next decade. The computer will use Nvidia's processing power to interpret data gathered by Bosch sensors. DEGREES OF AUTONOMY On the way to fully self-driving cars, levels of autonomy have been defined, with most cars on the road today at level two and Tesla (TSLA. O) ready to switch from level four to five - full autonomy - as soon as it is permitted to do so.

Level three means drivers can turn away in well-understood environments such as motorway driving but must be ready to take back control, while level four means the automated system can control the vehicle in most environments. Independent technology analyst Richard Windsor wrote in a note this week he doubted automakers would have autonomous vehicles leaving factories by a typical self-imposed deadline of 2020, mainly because the liability issue was unresolved."This is good news for the automotive industry which is notoriously slow to adapt to and implement new technology as it will have more time to defend its position against the new entrants," he wrote. But Nvidia's Huang said he expected to have chips available for level three automated driving by the end of this year and in customers' cars on the road by the end of 2018, with level four chips following the same pattern a year later.

That is at least a year ahead of the plans of most carmakers that have an autonomous-driving strategy. The head of autonomous driving at BMW