California-based autonomous driving startup AutoX has completed a Series A3 funding round backed by Chinese investors as it shifts its focus to promote the use of self-driving technologies in the Chinese commercial vehicle sector.
The funding round in the “tens of millions” was led by Chinese auto maker Dongfeng, and will be used to fund mass production of advanced L4 autonomous driving vehicles in the Chinese market, according to the company. This follows an undisclosed round of financing by another state-owned vehicle giant, Shanghai-based SAIC Motor, in September 2017.
“AutoX, with its expertise in algorithms, provides us with a new way to explore artificial intelligence in the mobility sector,” (our translation) Chinese media reported Liu Fen, an SAIC research director, as saying at the time.
Founded in 2016 by Xiao Jianxiong, a former assistant professor at Princeton University, AutoX focuses on the advanced L4 autonomy technology, meaning the car is capable of navigating itself except in extreme weather conditions. In August 2018, it launched a pilot program in San Jose, California for its grocery delivery business, allowing users to try out ordering fresh produce on its mobile application and receiving goods via self-driving cars.
The financing comes shortly after AutoX established its China research and development center in Shenzhen in January. It is currently testing its self-driving vehicles in the city’s Nanshan district, where Tencent headquarters and a Baidu regional office are located, as shown in a 30-second video sent to TechNode. In an announcement released Monday, AutoX plans to build a Windows-style self-driving system, and commercialize advanced driverless vehicles in partnerships with Chinese auto makers.
Internet giant Baidu is taking the lead in the market for Chinese driverless vehicles, one of the technologies being nurtured by the central government. Baidu took the top spot in terms of mileage in Beijing’s self-driving road tests last year, accounting for more than 90% of the total amount, said local government in a report. Baidu also made alliances with over 135 OEMs and tier 1 parts suppliers with its autonomous driving open platform Apollo, according to CEO Robin Li in a February earnings call.