Chinese AI-enabled self-driving tech developer UISEE closes over $154m

UISEE-powered Autonomous Electric Tractors (AET) has started operating at the Hong Kong International Airport on December 30, 2019. Source: Visuals from the Hong Kong International Airport website

UISEE Technology, a Chinese developer of AI-enabled autonomous driving solutions for clients like the Hong Kong International Airport, has secured over 1 billion yuan ($154.2 million) in a new funding round.

With the new financing, UISEE roped in strategic investors including a sub-fund affiliated with China’s National Manufacturing Transformation and Upgrading Fund, UISEE announced in a statement on Monday.

China’s National Manufacturing Transformation and Upgrading Fund, launched in November 2019, is a national investment fund with a registered capital of 147.2 billion yuan ($22.7 billion). It invests in growth-stage and mature companies in areas like new materials, next-generation information technology (IT), and power equipment.

The sub-fund, dubbed “Guokai Manufacturing Transformation and Upgrading Fund,” manages a capital pool of 50.1 billion yuan ($7.7 billion). Its capital injection in UISEE represents the sub-fund’s first investment in the autonomous driving field, said the startup.

Autonomous driving represents a deep integration of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), AI, big data, 5G, and many other core technologies needed to build China’s “new infrastructures,” a representative of the sub-fund was quoted as saying in the statement.

“The development of autonomous driving will not only speed up the transformation and iteration of China’s auto industry, but also lift the nation’s position as a manufacturing and tech powerhouse,” said the representative.

Developer of the world’s first airport-use AETs

Founded in February 2016, UISEE leverages AI and big data to build full-stack intelligent driving technologies, solutions, and services used in robo-taxis and unmanned vehicles deployed at airports, industrial parks, and the public transportation space.

UISEE plans to use the fresh funds to strengthen the R&D of its key technologies to realise “full-stack, fully unmanned, all-weather” self-driving solutions, said the startup. It seeks to forge cooperation with industry partners in an attempt to promote the massive commercialisation of autonomous driving technologies.

The firm’s autonomous electric tractors (AETs) started operating at the Hong Kong International Airport in December 2019 as the world’s first AET being put into live operation at an airport. Its AETs extended service areas starting from October 2020, running between the airport’s SkyPier and the Baggage Hall at Terminal 1 to deliver baggage for air-to-sea and sea-to-air passengers.

Earlier this month, the Hong Kong International Airport announced its plan of replacing all traditional baggage tractors operated manually at SkyPier with AETs by Q1 2021.

UISEE also forged a partnership with automaker SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile in September 2019 to build routes for fully unmanned logistics vehicles.

The Beijing-based startup said that its Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous driving systems can be deployed at scale. It has delivered “hundreds of” AI-based intelligent driving solutions to clients across various industries in 2020 with the annual sales volume increasing 150% over 2019.

With R&D centres in Beijing and Shanghai, the firm operates a testing and application innovation facility in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province. It has branches across several Chinese cities, such as Shenzhen, Chengdu, and Zhengzhou.

A spokesperson at UISEE told DealStreetAsia that the billion-yuan deal is part of the firm’s Series B round while declining to disclose more information, such as the firm’s post-money valuation.

In February 2020, the startup had announced the completion of part of the Series B round. The previous deal was backed by a range of investors including Germany-based multinational engineering and tech firm Bosch Group, government-backed investment firm Shenzhen Capital Group, and CICC’s private equity fund management unit CICC Capital.

Its earlier investors also include former Google China head Kai-Fu Lee’s Sinovation Ventures; Beijing-based angel fund ZhenFund; CAS Star, backed by national academy Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); and Cyanhill Capital, an early-stage investor in China’s consumer and TMT sectors.

Singapore Reporter/s

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.