Zvision Technologies, a Chinese startup that makes lidar sensors for self-driving cars, announced a new investment from three Chinese automakers on Monday, including Xpeng Motors. The company becomes the latest startup to tap growing investor interest in the self-driving car space.

Why it matters: The investment is another sign of the increasing interest in lidar sensors, seen as a crucial building block for future vehicles by most auto and tech firms. Lidar is a key component for self-driving cars and uses laser light to sense surroundings. 

Details: Zvision has raised “hundreds of millions of yuan” in a pre-Series C led by Xpeng Motors, according to a Monday announcement (in Chinese). Shang Qi Capital, a private equity firm owned by Chinese automaker SAIC, participated in the round. 

  • State-owned automaker Dongfeng Motor and existing backer Intel Capital also joined the round. A company spokeswoman declined to disclose an exact valuation when contacted by TechNode on Tuesday.
  • Zvision plans to use the funds to accelerate the development and mass-production of its automotive-grade lidar sensors, including improving its production line and supply chain. The company has yet to show a timeline. 

Context: In September, Xpeng had begun delivering the world’s first Lidar-equipped production vehicle, the P5, which the company boasts can distinguish objects within a range of up to 150 meters and can run autonomously under a driver’s supervision on Chinese roads, the South China Morning Post reported

  • Xpeng sources lidar sensors for the P5 from Livox, an affiliate of Chinese drone maker DJI, which previously encountered technical issues when attempting to meet the reliability requirements for automobiles, TechNode reported last June.
  • In November, the EV maker unveiled its second sports utility vehicle model, the G9. It will come fitted with two lidar sensors provided by Robosense, a lidar startup backed by SAIC and BYD. The G9 is scheduled for delivery in the third quarter of 2022.
  • Xpeng chief executive He Xiaopeng told investors last May that the company was testing lidar technology from multiple suppliers.
  • Rival EV maker Nio has heavily backed Innovusion, a startup formed by two Baidu veterans in 2016, and used the firm’s lidar technology for its first sedan model ET7 as well as the upcoming ET5.

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: @jill_shen_sh