China’s booming automotive market has given rise to a wealth of disruptive tech in the autos industry. While Chinese tech giants, including LeEco and Baidu, have set their sights on global domination, some smaller players are looking to solve problems closer to home, including China’s wildly unpredictable vehicles.
For those who’ve experienced China’s roadways first hand, it’s not unusual to see trucks bloated with anything from cardboard to livestock driving alongside three-wheeled micro vehicles, which somehow qualify as roadworthy.
Founded in 2012, Minieye develops what they call a ‘smart eye’ for vehicles, which uses computer vision technologies to anticipate possible collisions, building an algorithm specifically for China’s unpredictable roadways.
“It’s a big challenge for algorithm models to recognize not only normal cars but anomaly vehicles which are abundant in China, like three-wheelers dragging a huge tree or straw stacks.” said Liu Guoqing, CEO and founder of Minieye.
“On the other hand, large amounts of data [are] required to refine the model in different light and weather conditions.” said Liu. “We have utilized 33 vehicles to collect video data by running over ten thousand kilometers per day.”
Liu founded the company in Singapore four years ago with a group of computer vision scientists and engineers who were working on an ADAS project for the country’s Media Development Authority.
Currently, the startup has over 30 employees working from two branches, with an algorithm development center in Nanjing and product operation arm in Shenzhen.
The company recently secured an undisclosed amount of funding this April from ZTE Venture Capital. Liu told Technode that the funding is earmarked for algorithm development and pre-install solutions.
Previous investors include the Singapore Media Development Authority, Nanjing Municipality and Wu Yongming, a founding partner at Alibaba and board chairman of AliHealth.
A Growing Market For Local ADAS Products In China
Many local companies are now trying to tap into the ADAS field, which once belonged exclusively to foreign manufacturers in China. The list not only includes big names like Baidu and LeEco, who are leading the field in China’s auto innovation, but also solo startups who specialize in smaller verticals.
Liu is upbeat about the potential for stable growth in China’s ADAS industry, though he believes funding has been overzealous. “Some of the venture capitalists overestimated the growth projection of ADAS industry and China’s investment boom has created a bubble in the sector.”
The market size for Automotive Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) is forecasted to hit $3.1 billion by 2019, according to research by IHS.