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Inceptio Technology, a Chinese startup developing Level 3 autonomous trucks, raised $120 million in funding. The latest round was led by top Chinese electric vehicle battery maker CATL, which supplies Volkswagen VOWG and Tesla. The funding also comes six months after Inceptio raised $100 million and received China’s first A-sample validation for Level 3 autonomous trucks.
Inceptio in June 2019 launched joint development projects with leading Chinese OEMs for volume production of Level 3 autonomous heavy-duty trucks. Level 3 vehicles can detect their environments and make some decisions, but a human driver is still required.
Inceptio is responsible for developing the full stack of autonomous software and the on-board computing platform, while the OEMs focused on engineering the drive-by-wire chassis platform. Earlier this year, Inceptio said it expects to begin production of autonomous trucks by the end of 2021. It plans to begin operating a trucking network using its proprietary technology in 2022.
The global market for self-driving truck technology will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.4%, growing from $1 billion in 2020 to $1.6 billion by 2025, predicts Allied Market Research. China is the world’s largest automotive market, so there are other companies developing autonomous trucks. Some of Inceptio’s China-based competitors include TuSimple and Pony.ai, both of which also have U.S.-based offices. TuSimple has a partnership with Volkswagen’s Traton commercial truck unit, and Pony.ai is backed by Toyota.
In the U.S., leading autonomous truck companies include Aurora, Embark, Ike, Kodiak Robotics, and Waymo. Starsky Robotics shut down earlier in 2020, but persistent shortages of long-haul drivers, accelerating e-commerce demand, and logistics disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted more interest and investment in autonomous vehicles.
Earlier Monday, Mountain View, Calif-based Nuro raised a $500 million Series C round of funding for the development of its R2 autonomous delivery vehicle. Nuro has been delivering goods from pizza to prescriptions to the public since 2018. Nuro previously raised $940 million in Series B funding in February 2019 from Softbank.
Daniel Goff, head of policy at Kodiak Robotics, was a recent guest on The Robot Report Podcast. The discussion hit on the state of the autonomous trucking industry, why robo-trucks are the new robo-taxis, the role of simulation, and Kodiak’s approach to middle-mile autonomous trucking. Listen to the podcast below.