Chinese self-driving vehicle startup Uisee has raised around $150 million in a new round of funding led by a state-backed venture capital fund, as the Covid-19 pandemic fuels demand for driverless vehicles.
Details: A national investment fund formed by a group of government agencies and state-owned enterprises led the RMB 1 billion funding round, according to an announcement released Monday. The fund has registered capital of RMB 147.2 billion. The Uisee valuation was not disclosed.
- China’s Ministry of Finance is the fund’s top shareholder holding a 15.3% stake, according to information on Chinese business research platform Tianyancha. Other major stakeholders also include China Development Bank Capital, the investment subsidiary of the state-owned policy bank, as well as China Insurance Investment Fund, a venture capital firm set up by a group of top Chinese insurers.
- Uisee said the proceeds will be used to enhance the development of its fully self-driving vehicle technology for use cases from passenger transport to logistics. The company’s public demonstrations have primarily showcased its logistics applications, enabling cars with self-driving technology to transport goods in and between warehouses.
- The Beijing-based AV startup said it is partnering with several big automakers to commercialize its technology, including equipping a fleet of more than 100 electric vehicles as trailers to transport auto parts in an SAIC-GM-Wuling plant in the southern Guangxi province. SAIC-GM-Wuling is a General Motors joint venture with its Chinese manufacturing partners.
- Uisee said that the fleet has logged more than 300,000 kilometers (186,411 miles) unmanned as of January in the 15 months since partnering with the carmaker. In an interview with Chinese media in April, founder and CEO Wu Gansha said that it is planning to enable daily operation of 1,000 AVs and achieve revenue of RMB 200 million by the end of 2021.
- Wu, formerly the director of Intel’s research institute in China, formed Uisee in early 2016. In February, it closed a Series B for an undisclosed amount led by Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, the German auto supplier’s investment arm. Other early investors included Chinese venture capital firm ZhenFund, as well as Sinovation Ventures co-founded by former Google China head Kaifu Lee.
Context: Uisee is benefiting from pandemic-driven demand for unmanned transport, as one of a handful of Chinese AV startups getting a funding boost.
- Guangzhou-based WeRide earlier this month said it had closed a $310 million Series B from investors including China’s biggest electric bus maker Yutong, as the robotaxi startup begins expanding into self-driving minibuses.
- Plus.ai, a self-driving truck company backed by Sequoia Capital China, in November raised $100 million from Guotai Junan International, a Hong Kong-based investment and securities firm, and Hedosophia, a London-based VC firm.