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Chinese automotive lidar firm wins $45m funding

Chinese automotive lidar firm Robosense has received a combined investment of over $45 million – the largest-ever single round of financing for a Chinese lidar company. The funding will be used to increase the firm’s market share, further develop its solid-state lidar technology and artificial intelligence (AI) sensing algorithms, as well as accelerate its product development, long-term manufacturing and market penetration. 

Robosense provides a range of lidar sensing technologies, including those using AI sensing algorithms, lidar combination technology and lidar-cam deep fusion technology.

Founded in 2014, the firm already has an over 50 per cent market share of all the lidar sold in Asia and has grown significantly over the past two years. In 2017 alone, the company completed mass production of its 16-beam automotive lidar, mass-produced a 32-beam lidar, released a lidar-based autonomous driving environmental sensing AI system, provided a software and hardware combined lidar environment sensing solution, and finally launched a MEMS-based solid-state lidar system, which debuted at CES 2018 in January.

Four months after CES 2018, Robosense partnered with the Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, the logistics arm of the Alibaba Group, to launch the world's first MEMS lidar autonomous logistics vehicle, the G Plus. Logistics will be one of the first markets for autonomous vehicle technology, with data from Deloitte’s ‘China Smart Logistics Development Report’ indicating that the intelligent logistics market will reach $145 billion by 2025.

Cainiao contributed towards the $45 million funding secured by Robosense, along with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation Motor Group (SAIC), and the electric vehicle subsidiary of the Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. (BAIC) Group. The three entities will not only financially invest in Robosense and jointly promote the rapid development of autonomous vehicles with the company, but will also collaborate to direct the autonomous driving industry into production and commercialisation.

From previous financing rounds Robosense has also secured backing from auto manufacturing, financial brokerage, and artificial intelligence companies, including Haitong Securities, Fosun Group, Oriental Fortune Capital, Kinzon Capital, and Guangdong Investment.

Global information provider IHS Markit predicts that by 2035, total global sales of self-driving cars will reach 21 million vehicles, up from nearly 600,000 vehicles in 2025. The firm believes that by 2035, nearly 76 million vehicles with some level of autonomy will have been sold globally.

‘The rapid development of autonomous driving has ignited a huge demand for lidar,’ said Mark Qiu, co-founder of Robosense. ‘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.’

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