JingChi Inc., a Chinese autonomous driving start-up founded by Wang Jing, former head of Baidu Inc’s Autonomous Driving Unit, has raised US$52 million in a pre-A round led by Qiming Venture Partners. China Growth Capital, Nvidia GPU Ventures and other unnamed investors also participated in the round.
The announcement came after the firm said it raised US$30 million in an angel investment two weeks ago. The company said at the time that it was in the process of closing a series A round of as much as US$100 million. Further announcements regarding the company’s series A round are expected in the near future.
The proceeds will be used to expand JingChi’s research and development teams in China and the U.S. in order to accelerate the deployment of self-driving vehicles in China. Qiming’s founding managing Duane Kuang is to join JingChi’s board.
JingChi also said that it had signed an agreement with An Qing city in Anhui province in August allowing the company to deploy 50 self-driving vehicles in the city before the end of 2017. The company plans to have several hundred self-driving vehicles providing robot-assisted taxi hailing services in 2018.
“We are creating an innovative mobility ecosystem to transform every single trip to be safer, more efficient, more cost-effective and more leisurely,” said Jing Wang, founder and CEO of JingChi. “We are determined to bring fully autonomous vehicles to China and become one of the first companies that apply autonomous driving technologies at scale in 2020. With this investment, it makes our dream possible.”
Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Jingchi specializes in developing autonomous driving cars. With around 50 employees currently and 80% of them being engineers, the company completed a test drive in California in June. It is the 34th company to obtained a license to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in that state, following Chinese tech firms Baidu, NIO and TuSimple, the company said.
During his tenure at Baidu from 2010 to this April, Wang was responsible for overseeing big data, cloud computing, Baidu Brain, autonomous cars and voice recognition technology research and development. He set up research centers in the U.S. and Shenzhen, as well as helping to found the company’s research arm, Baidu Research.
“Qiming has been closely monitoring the artificial intelligence and autonomous driving space in the last few years. We truly believe these are transformative technologies that will benefit human kind in the years to come,” said Duane Kuang, Qiming founding managing partner. "We are extremely impressed with Jing and the team at JIngChi, and feel fortunate to embark on this journey from the beginning with the team, to become one of the world’s first companies to introduce autonomous driving to the mass market."