(Image credit: Deeproute.ai)
(Image credit: Deeproute.ai)

Deeproute.ai, a Chinese autonomous driving startup, said it has raised $50 million in a fresh round of funding from top Chinese investors, as yet another company bursts into view in the country’s thriving smart mobility market.

Why it matters: The deal may signal that Chinese venture capital funds are once again favoring self-driving startups, as the central government ramps up efforts to surpass the US in leading technologies.

  • The government has set a series of key tasks to strengthen the development of China’s transport system in a guiding document released by the state council on Thursday.
  • Areas of focus include smart, connected vehicles, including autonomous driving and vehicle-infrastructure connectivity, with an end goal of building a complete industry chain, the government reaffirmed in the document.

Detail: Deeproute.ai announced Tuesday it secured $50 million in a Series Pre-A led by Fosun RZ Capital, the venture capital arm of the Chinese conglomerate.

  • Founded by a group of former engineers from Google, Microsoft, and Ford earlier this year, Shenzhen-based Deeproute.ai is developing a “full stack solution” for passenger vehicles.
  • “Full stack” refers to a package solution including all of the technological pieces required for autonomous driving, such as sensors, machine-learning software, and control mechanics.
  • The AV startup, now a supplier for Dongfeng Motor, revealed that it will offer robotaxi services in partnership with China’s second-largest automaker for the upcoming seventh Military World Games, which will take place in the central Chinese city of Wuhan next month.
  • Other investors include GSR Ventures, Yunqi Partners, and Ventech China.
  • Deeproute.ai was not immediately available for comment.

Context: Deeproute.ai has not yet revealed its founding team and keeps many of its company details under wraps. However, some evidence indicates it is linked to Roadstar.ai, a once-leader in the Chinese AV industry.

  • Chinese tech media Touchweb reported that it is a new company formed by Roadstar.ai founder and former chief scientist Zhou Guang, an assertion supported by a person close to the company TechNode spoke with on Wednesday.
  • Founded by three former Baidu engineers in Silicon Valley in 2017, Roadstar.ai ranked 10th in a disengagement report released by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, with a rate of one disengagement every 175 miles (282 kilometers), following Chinese AV companies Pony.ai, Baidu, and AutoX.
  • The Roadstar.ai management team had a public falling out earlier this year, and accusations of corruption and data fraud have been leveled at Zhou. The company was reportedly liquidated in March.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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