Chasing Cruise and Waymo, Chinese AV company AutoX plans to begin testing in San Francisco TechCrunch


AutoX, a Chinese autonomous vehicle company that has played in both the US and its home country, is now relocating to San Francisco, an area where its main competitors are heading for commercialization.

The company, which has been testing its vehicles in the greater San Jose area since 2016, shared plans to launch robotic axis operations and build an operations center in the Golden City. The center will be responsible for housing, maintenance and charging of vehicles, as well as processing data collected locally by the cars and calibrating their sensors. According to AutoX’s CEO Dr. Jianxiong Xiao, also mentioned by Professor X, hires AutoX people to build his local team in San Francisco.

AutoX plans to initially begin testing its hybrid Fiat Chrysler Pacificas, equipped with the company’s latest fifth-generation AV platform and a redundant drive-by-wire system, with human security personnel behind it. send. The AV company has already piloted a test permit, which allows testing with a human safety operator behind the wheel; and a driverless test permit, which allows testing without a human safety operator, from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. However, AutoX’s driverless testing license is for its third-generation vehicle and is strictly limited to San Jose, so AutoX will have to request the DMV to extend that license to include driverless testing using its latest system in San Francisco.

The Dongfeng Motor-backed company has not said when it plans to bring the driver back for testing in San Francisco, but it did say it would continue driverless testing in San Jose.

AutoX is moving to San Francisco at a time when others such as Cruise and Waymo are kicking off commercial operations. Both companies have permits from the RDW to use their vehicles, which means they can start earning income for autonomous deliveries. Cruise still needs a final permit from the California Public Utilities Commission before it can charge for its robotic taxi service, but the General Motors-owned company just grabbed an additional $1.35 billion from investor Softbank when it it opened up its self-driving ride service to the public.

The DMV’s annual pullout reports, released Wednesday, showed Waymo drove 2.3 million autonomous miles on California’s public roads by 2021, far more than any competitor. Cruise followed in second with approximately 900,000 miles driven both with and without a human safety driver.

The same data shows that AutoX, which only drove about 50,000 miles with a safety operator, did not report driverless tests of its vehicles. That said, AV developers are not required to report testing on private tracks or closed courses.

In California, AutoX’s fleet is 44 vehicles, according to the company. Data from the DMV shows that last year only six of AutoX’s total fleet were actively used for autonomous testing. AutoX attributes this to COVID, which has caused the company to scale back on testing, but plans to ramp it up again this year.

AutoX also claims to be massively scaling up in China with a robotic-axi fleet of 1,000 vehicles, which the company says are spread across the cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen, where AutoX is deploying a driverless fleet. The company does not want to share the number of trips it has accrued through the fleet.

AutoX often touts its in-house full-stack hardware capabilities, which include a compute platform and various types of sensors. The kind of technology to back this up, combined with the move to expand operations in San Francisco and the expansion of a robotic taxi fleet back in China, would require seriously large amounts of capital to fund.

The company last publicly announced a Series A raise in 2019, an investment that brought AutoX to $160 million in total funding. By comparison, almost all of AutoX’s Chinese competitors received funding in 2021. company, has raised $350 million as of September 2021.

When asked how AutoX is able to scale so much with less money, Professor X told TechCrunch that while the company is indeed looking for a round in the coming months, it is leaning on the support of past investors and the mass market. in China for robotic axi services.

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