August 31, 2019, SHANGHAI officially signed a strategic partnership with an L4 self-driving car company, AutoX, to build Robotaxi Pilot Area in Jiading, Shanghai. At the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC), Shanghai Mayor, Mr Ying Yong, witnessed the signing ceremony between AutoX and Jiading District (represented by Fangzhou Lu, District Governor of Jiading). AutoX is the only company signing the official strategic partnership with Shanghai Jiading District at WAIC. The partnership with Jiading and AutoX is Shanghai’s first official pilot zone for autonomous vehicles.
The pilot area is located in Anting, Jiading District, Shanghai. A fleet of 100 AutoX autonomous vehicles will be deployed in the pilot area. The pilot area is 150 square kilometers large initially, with residential areas, shopping centers, commercial and business districts, train stations, etc. Residents in the pilot area will be able to ride a robotaxi on their way to work, leisure, and running errands. AutoX Robotaxi, called the “xTaxi” service, is expected to be available by the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020.
In 2018, China has laid out national guidelines for testing self-driving cars on certain public roads, usually designated in rural areas or suburban areas. The rules lay out requirements that autonomous test vehicles must first be tested in non-public zones, that road tests can only be tested on designated streets but are forbidden to do commercial deployments. Shanghai was the first city to have carried out the national guidelines and built a non-public testing facility to give “driving tests” to autonomous vehicles for testing permits. The pilot area in Jiading is one of the first pilot zones in China beyond testing.
Jiading Shanghai is the international centre of the automotive industry in China. SAIC Motor and its joint venture with Volkswagen are both located in Jiading. Last year, SAIC Volkswagen invested 17 billion CNY (USD $2.45 billion) into its new-energy vehicle plant in Jiading. Aptiv, the L4 autonomous driving company owned by Delphi, has opened its China Autonomous Mobility Center in Jiading and plans to test and develop autonomous vehicles there as well. Didi, China’s Uber, has demonstrated its autonomous driving fleet at this year’s WAIC in Shanghai as well. At WAIC, Jiading district officially signs the partnership with AutoX.
AutoX is a Level-4 autonomous driving company with a global footprint.Before becoming an entrepreneur, Xiao was an assistant professor at Princeton University, where he served as the founding director of the Princeton Computer Vision and Robotics Labs from 2013 to 2016.
In June, AutoX became one of only four companies to receive a robotaxi license from California. Although more than 60 companies have a permit to test their autonomous cars in the state, the license allowing companies to transport people in self-driving cars is much harder to obtain. AutoX has been testing its car in over 10 cities globally, including heavy testing in Silicon Valley and the central business district of Shenzhen, where Chinese tech giants such as Tencent and Baidu have their offices. There were human driven cars making sudden stops and cutting in aggressively, pedestrians jaywalking in areas with no traffic lights or pedestrian crossing, and electrical scooters running red lights and riding against traffic. AutoX’s autonomous vehicles successfully navigated through all the traffic conditions, with no human driver interference. AutoX is the only company in China that has tested self-driving vehicles at scale in busy metropolitan areas.
The company announced in April that it closed a round of fundraising, led by one of China’s biggest automakers, Dongfeng Motor. SAIC Motor, another state-owned carmaker, has also injected capital in the company. Other backers include venture capital firm Capital Today and semiconductor giant MediaTek of Taiwan. AutoX has raised over $100 million funding.