China autonomous vehicle The industry started to see some traction around 2016, when several ambitious startups grew rapidly after advances in dealing, computing, and machine learning. But the nascent sector was still idling, as the people working in the technology had mostly computer science backgrounds, and there weren’t many with extensive experience in the auto industry.
Everyone wanted to build robotaxis at the time, recalls Hongquan Jiang, chairman and managing partner of Boyuan Capital, Bosch’s newly created venture capital arm in China. “Back then, if you told people you were doing level 2.5 or 3 [the human driver is expected to take over], you would be despised. But people in the industry quickly realized Level 4 [the driver can take a nap in most circumstances] was still a distant dream,” Jiang told Ploonge.
Regardless, these founders’ ambitions kept them on track, and the industry is finally seeing a resurgence in China. Unlike the previous generation of founders, the space is now seeing more automotive knowledge flow. This generation also seems to be more pragmatic and, rather than aiming for the stars, is focused on market demand.
A lot of things can happen in China because of government support, but not necessarily elsewhere. Hongquan Jiang
This focus is reaping appropriate rewards for startups. The industry saw an unprecedented period of acceleration in 2021, with more than $8.5 billion invested in robotaxi startups, autonomous truck developers, lidar makers, smart electric car makers and chip makers focused on vehicle automation. . according to Crunchbase.
Investors these days also have good reason to invest money in this sector: sensors are getting cheaper and more capable, talent from the automotive and AI industries is coming together, the government has introduced a number of beneficial policies, and demand is increasing. As China prepares to deal with a decline in its working-age population.
There’s no fear when the state protects you
Like other sectors that rely on public infrastructure, companies working to put driverless taxis, trucks and buses on China’s roads have benefited greatly from government support.