Self-driving startup AutoX snags $100m led by Chinese state-owned Dongfeng Motor

Photo: Reuters

AutoX, an autonomous driving firm dual-headquartered in Hong Kong and California, has closed a $100 million Series A round led by Chinese state-owned Dongfeng Motor, which will help the startup build its fleet and expand the technical team.

Dongfeng Motor injected tens of millions of US dollars in the investment.

Silicon Valley-based incubator Plug and Play’s China fund, Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, and Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), launched by the Hong Kong government in 2001, poured money into the new round, said Gobi Partners, the manager of Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, in a statement on Monday.

AutoX is planning to immediately kick off a new round of fundraising following the completion of the current deal, according to the statement.

The company would join Alibaba’s ecosystem, which is expected to promote the better application of its autonomous driving solutions in the logistics industry.

The startup also laid out plans to foray into the Southeast Asian market with the backing of its Series A round investors located in the region.

“China has a population of about 1.4 billion, representing a great demand in areas like transportation, logistics and food delivery, which has provided many opportunities for [the development of] the autonomous driving industry,” said Xiao Jianxiong, founder and chairman of AutoX, in the statement.

“Due to the comparatively-high threshold in terms of raising capital and [developing] technologies in the self-driving sector, the Chinese market is unlikely to be monopolized by one single player
or fragmented by hundreds of companies. The more potential pattern is the co-existence of a few leading enterprises,” said Xiao.

AutoX was founded in September 2016 in Silicon Valley by Xiao Jianxiong, a former Princeton University assistant professor, also known as “Professor X.”

The startup promotes the application and commercialization of level 4 autonomous vehicles leveraging real-time camera-vision, sensors and full-stack artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.

The company announced a partnership with Shanghai authorities at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference on August 31, aiming to introduce 100 driverless taxis in a demo zone in
the city’s suburban Jading district by early 2020.

The startup received its first license to test-drive autonomous vehicles in China in December 2018. In August 2018, the firm piloted autonomous grocery delivery services in San Jose, California.
The company had previously sealed partnerships with carmakers including SAIC Motor and Dongfeng Motor as an autonomous driving technology provider.

AutoX raised the first tranche of capital for the Series A round in 2017 from the investment venture of Taiwanese chip giant MediaTek and SAIC Capital, an investment arm of the state-owned Chinese carmaker.

Chinese state-owned carmaker SAIC Motor, Chinese-American physicist Zhang Shoucheng, and Xu Xiaoping, founder of Chinese seed fund ZhenFund, were among backers in the company’s previous rounds.