China’s RoboSense raises $45m from Alibaba logistics arm, others

Children pass by a self-driving Chevy Bolt EV car during a media event by Cruise, GM's autonomous car unit, in San Francisco, California. Photo: Reuters

China-based LiDAR (Light and Distance Ranging) company RoboSense has announced the closing of a $45 million funding a group of investors, including Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd., the logistics arm of Alibaba Group.

Other named investors include Motor Group (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), the largest publicly-traded auto manufacturer, and BAIC Group (Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co.) electric vehicle company, as stated in an official release.

The round is said to be China’s largest-ever single financing for a company developing LiDAR technology, which is used to sense and measure the distance to an object using laser pulses.

Founded in 2014, RoboSense is a provider of LiDAR environment aware solutions designed to provide a safer, more reliable, and lower cost LiDAR system for autonomous vehicles.

In April last year, the company completed mass production of its 16-beam automotive LiDAR. Later in September, the it mass-produced its 32-beam LiDAR, released a LiDAR-based autonomous driving environmental sensing AI system, and provided a software and hardware combined LiDAR environment sensing solution.

The funding will be used to increase RoboSense’s market share and the R&D of autonomous vehicle technologies, including its solid-state LiDAR, AI sensing algorithms, and other advanced technologies, as well as accelerating product development, long-term manufacturing and market penetration.

With the new financial backing, RoboSense will be looking to strengthen its position in Asia, where it claims to already have 50% market share, but also markets beyond the region. Globally, it has been predicted that nearly 76 million vehicles with some level of autonomy will be sold by 2035.

“RoboSense is embracing this market demand through partnerships with multiple industry leaders. It is our great pleasure to be endorsed and funded by industry giants from many different fields. This round of funding is not only for capital assistance, but also for strategic resources. We are looking forward to continuously working with our partners to lead the large-scale commercialization era of the autonomous driving industry,” said RoboSense co-founder Mark Qiu.

Recently, a similar company based in Arizona, Lunewave, which develops disruptive antenna and radar sensor technology, raised $5 million in seed funding from several investors including Baidu Ventures.

Such sensory technologies are essential for the production and development of self-driving vehicles, which big companies are expected to invest heavily in.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Honda Motor Co Ltd will invest $2.75 billion and take a 5.7 percent stake in General Motors Co’s Cruise self-driving vehicle unit, to jointly develop autonomous vehicles for deployment in ride services fleets around the world.

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