Autonomous driving startup Uisee attracts Chinese state investor in $150M round

There is no lack of state funding for China’s smart-driving startups nowadays as the country advances its goal to become a global leader in artificial intelligence in a decade’s time. The latest to get a financial boost is Uisee, a Beijing-based company founded by a group of tech veterans including the former head of Intel Labs China, Wu Gansha.

Uisee said Monday it has closed a funding round north of 1 billion yuan ($150 million) from investors including the National Manufacturing Transformation and Upgrade Fund, a $21 billion state-backed fund set up in 2019 to promote and upgrade the manufacturing value chain in China, with the Ministry of Finance as the biggest shareholder.

Five-year-old Uisee is the first autonomous driving company the fund has ever backed, according to the announcement, and the firm is expected to help propel forward the public transit and logistics sectors and become a “benchmark” autonomous driving enterprise in China, said a manager from the fund in a statement.

Unlike Mobileye or China’s Momenta, which sell advanced driver-assistance systems as they invest in the development of more advanced Level 4 driving, Uisee leapfrogs ADAS and focuses on unmanned driving, co-founder and CEO Wu Gansha said in a previous interview.

Uisee supplies technology for cases ranging from robotaxis and city buses to airports and logistics hubs. It’s secured a handful of major customers, including the Hong Kong International Airport, which is using Uisee’s solutions to automate its baggage tractors, alongside state-backed automakers FAW Group, Dongfeng Motor and more.

The new financial injection, which also counts a number of undisclosed “industrial investors,” will allow Uisee to ramp up research and development and promote the industry’s at-scale monetization. The company claims that the joint venture between SAIC Motor, General Motors and Liuzhou Wuling Motors has used its technology to enable 300,000 kilometers of vehicle operation without safety drivers inside a logistics hub.

Existing investors include Bosch the German electronics giant, which participated in Uisee’s Series B round last year, alongside Shenzhen government-backed Shenzhen Capital Group and state-backed CCI Investment.

Several other Chinese startups have also received sizable fundings in recent months to accelerate their smart-driving solutions such as WeRide, which closed its Series B of $310 million at the start of 2021; chipmaker Horizon Robotics, which landed $150 million in December;, which pocked $267 million in November; and ride-hailing platform Didi, which from last May raised $500 million for its new entity dedicated to autonomous driving.