Self-Driving Startup Roadster.ai Raises a Record $128 Million
Shenzhen City-based self-driving startup Roadstar.ai today announced US$128 million in Series A Funding, setting a single round private financing record for China's autonomous driving industry.
The investment was led by Wu Capital and Shenzhen Venture Capital Group, joined by Yunqi Partners, CMB International Securities, and Vision Plus Capital.
Zhou Guang, the chief scientist at Roadstar.ai, said on Tuesday that the new investment "will be used to bankroll operations of our self-driving fleet and data collection".
Founded in May 2017, Roadstar.ai is focusing on Level 4 autonomous driving. The company has R&D centers in Silicon Valley, California and Shenzhen.
Roadster AI has been testing Lincoln MKZ cars equipped with LiDAR, cameras, GPS, and various other sensors on Chinese and U.S. public roads since last September. The company was granted a permit by the California DMV to test self-driving cars on public streets in California, joining fifty other companies including Waymo, Apple, and Baidu.
Roadstar also unveiled its first self-driving tech kit called Aries. Aries enables an autonomous vehicle to drive in the rain or at night with a maximum distance for error of five centimeters, according to a separate WeChat post by the company on Tuesday.
The kit is billed as the world's first urban self-driving solution compatible with China-made lidar systems. Aries can enable level 4 performance with a per-vehicle cost under US$50,000, according to the company.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) classifies level 4 vehicles as "fully autonomous." Meaning these vehicles are "designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip."
Roadster joins three other China-based autonomous driving startups that have secured significant funding recently. Earlier this year, Guangzhou-based Pony.ai raised US$112 million in Series A funding, Jingchi.ai raised $52 million and Nuro $92 million.
Chinese tech giants Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu have all obtained domestic autonomous vehicle testing licenses in California. Didi Chuxing was granted a permit by the California DMV test autonomous vehicles on the state's roads on May 10.
Roadstar's breakthroughs in autonomous driving are built on its two independent technologies, HeteroSync and DeepFusion.
HeteroSync (multi-sensor synchronization) uses multi-sensor data to provide highly accurate time and space synchronization data for self-driving systems. The system can update road conditions in real time. While the company's DeepFusion (depth fusion of data) generates robust, efficient, and safe autonomous driving solutions by combining high-dimensional sensor data.
Roadstar.ai's ambitious goal for 2020 is to reduce its self-driving vehicles' safety driver intervention rate to one instance per 1,000 km travelled. An intervention is when a human operator must take manual control of an autonomous vehicle in certain situations that the software cannot handle. The California DMV requires all companies to report on ‘disengagements' of their autonomous driving systems.
The company told Synced they will deploy 50 new self-driving vehicles in China. Roadster AI plans to expand the fleet to 200 in 2019 and 1,500 vehicles by 2020.
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