A lot of government support, it appears
China’s autonomous vehicle industry first started seeing some traction around 2016, when a bunch of ambitious startups mushroomed following advances in lidar, computing and machine learning. But the nascent sector was still driving in low gear, as the people working on the tech mostly had computer science backgrounds, and there weren’t many with extensive experience in the automobile industry.
Everyone wanted to build robotaxis at the time, recalls Hongquan Jiang, chairman and managing partner at Boyuan Capital, Bosch’s newly minted venture capital arm in China. “Back then, if you told people you were doing Level 2.5 or 3 [the human driver is expected to take over], you would be scorned. But people in the industry quickly realized Level 4 [the driver can take a nap in most circumstances] was still a distant dream,” Jiang told TechCrunch.
Regardless, these founders’ ambitions kept them on the path, and the industry is finally seeing a resurgence in China. Unlike the previous generation of founders, the space is now seeing more automobile expertise flow in. This generation also seems to be more pragmatic, and rather than shooting for the stars, they’re focused on …