At a time when autonomous tech companies are gaining traction, SAIC Mobility Robotaxi, a robotaxi unit of Chinese automaker SAIC Motor has raised $148 million in the second round of funding. The financing round was led by SAIC Group and saw participation from autonomous technology partner Momenta, Gaoheng Management Consulting, and a other institutions.
Attains unicorn status
With this round, SAIC Mobility’s total valuation surpasses $1 billion and it attains the unicorn status. The company will use the fresh funds to scale its robotaxi service in China. Notably, it will operate in partnership with Momenta, an autonomous vehicle company.
The robotaxis of SAIC Mobility are powered by Momenta’s Flywheel 4 tech designed to use deep learning instead of a rules-based machine learning approach. The latter claims that this tech allows robotaxis to iterate quickly and improve its algorithms.
To reach the aim of deploying 200 vehicles across China by the end of this year, the two companies will use the fresh funds to buy and develop more vehicles, double the current number of vehicles in its fleet, and improve the ride-hailing app and the autonomous capabilities of the vehicles.
“SAIC Mobility Robotaxi’s success is the organic combination of ‘operational experience’ and ‘leading autonomous driving technology,’” said Cao Xudong, CEO of Momenta, in a statement. “Our two companies together will continue to develop the technology, products and commercial implementation to meet the future and diverse travel needs of end users. We believe that this will become the industry benchmark for autonomous driving and in-depth cooperation between leading car companies and operating platforms, and the future of scalable [uncrewed] driving.”
Trials in China
The investment came months after both the companies launched a couple of 100-day trials in Suzhou and Shanghai. The pilot was launched late last year and tested 60 vehicles with a safety driver behind the wheel. As per the company, it reached a daily order volume of nearly 20 rides per vehicle and witnessed a whopping 98% of user satisfaction. It also added that nearly 80% of its riders used the service over two times.
After the successful trials, SAIC Mobility is all set for eventual commercialisation in these two cities. The company believes to meet the new regulations that will be released early in 2023. With Momenta’s partnership, SAIC Mobility is bullish to get the commercial deployment permit in Suzhou and eventually scaleup the deployment of its robotaxis.
In Shanghai, SAIC Mobility will come into competition with Baidu, an autonomous ride-hailing service among others.