Beijing-based startup Uisee has raised more than RMB 1 billion (USD 150 million) to commercialize autonomous driving vehicles at large scale, 36Kr reported on Monday. The company said it will also use the funds to boost R&D for its “all-scenario, truly driverless, all-weather” platform. The Guokai Manufacturing Transformation and Upgrading Fund, which was set up in May 2020 by the state-owned National Manufacturing Transformation Fund, is among the investors of this round.
“The development of autonomous driving can speed up the transformation and upgrading of China’s automotive industry, and help China to become a manufacturing superpower and tech giant,” said an unnamed executive with the Guokai fund, according to the 36Kr report. “Uisee has obvious advantages in both software and hardware in autonomous driving and has applied its technologies in airports, parks, buses, and robotaxis.”
“Although there is still some time before autonomous vehicles can run on open roads at large scale, they have been increasingly used in various other situations,” Zhang Xiang, auto analyst with a government-affiliated think tank, told KrASIA on Monday. “It won’t take too long before the Guokai fund can secure returns from this investment, as the technologies are getting mature and costs are getting lower,” he predicted, adding that there has been a trend for state funds to pivot from traditional sectors towards high tech.
“Uisee is one of the earliest companies in China that have commercialized its technologies and thus has a first-mover advantage in the market,” an auto analyst with a major Chinese institution told KrASIA on Tuesday.
Founded in 2016, the company said on its website that it delivered hundreds of “AI drivers” to clients in various industries during 2020, 150% more than the year before, without offering details. Autonomous trailers co-developed by Uisee and the Hong Kong International Airport have been in place since end of December 2019, the first of its kind worldwide. The airport has also enlarged the scope of where it uses the vehicles, which operate without a safety operator.
In Liuzhou, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the company has teamed up with automaker SGMW, a joint venture of SAIC Motor and General Motors, and has put in service about 100 driverless logistics vehicles that have run more than 300,000 kilometers transporting cargo. Chongqing Changan Minsheng APLL Logistics, FAW Logistics, and chemistry giant BASF are all among Uisee’s partners.
Other autonomous driving firms in China, such as Neolix and TuSimple, also applied their technology in the logistics sector, where passenger safety is less of a concern.
Uisee also ventured into passenger transport where it is teaming up with companies such as Dongfeng Motor and SAIC Volkswagen. Over the past year, Chinese internet giant Baidu, startups WeRide, AutoX, and ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing have already opened up their robotaxi services to residents in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha and Chongqing.