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NVIDIA Leads Chinese Driverless Truck Startup TuSimple Series B Funding Round

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【Summary】According to data from CB Insights, early-stage funding for the development of driverless platforms in China reached a whopping $929 million during the first quarter of 2017. In the nascent autonomous driving sector, NVIDIA boasts partnerships with Baidu, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi and Volvo.

Michael Cheng    Aug 22, 2017 10:30 AM PT
NVIDIA Leads Chinese Driverless Truck Startup TuSimple Series B Funding Round

NVIDIA is experiencing rapid growth this year. The company's cutting-edge chipsets are being scooped up by both cryptocurrency miners and self-driving car startups. To expand its presence in the autonomous trucking industry, the AI giant recently led a Series B financing round launched by TuSimple, a China-based graphics card maker. Sina Weibo also participated in the event, which raised a total of $20 million.

NVIDIA's contribution equated to a three percent stake in the company. Under the new arrangement, the two-year-old startup will be able to leverage several powerful technologies, including the Drive PX 2 and Jetson TX2. The latter, low-powered embedded platform was released earlier this year, along with the JetPack 3.0 AI SDK. Stemming from the 16nm NVIDIA Tegra "Parker" system on a chip (SoC), the Jetson TX2 is designed for heavy cloud-computing requirements.

SAE-L4 Driverless Technology for Trucks

TuSimple is interested in developing SAE-L4 autonomous platforms for the commercial trucking sector. Earlier this year, the startup completed a 200-mile, SAE-L4 trial from San Diego to Yuma, Arizona. The program pushed the fleet's camera sensors to their limits on the highway. For real-time sensing, the trucks are equipped with three radar components, supplemented by eight cameras. Using computer vision processing, the vessels can accurately detect obstructions while navigating through tunnels.

"The company's also developing a car identification tool using its image recognition software. They note that once available, it'll be able to identify car make and model with 97 percent accuracy from photos of vehicles uploaded to its site," said Darrell Etherington from TechCrunch.

Next month, the startup intends to launch a new pilot program in China. The trial will attempt to test a fleet of self-driving trucks on local expressways. In 2015, TuSimple completed its first angel funding round, led by Wei Venture Capital – the investment arm of Chinese telecom giant and online media platform Sina. The investment firm was established with the following businesses: Sequoia Capital, IDG Capital, Sinovation Ventures, Yunfeng Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Strategic Expansion

TuSimple was founded in 2015, with focus on machine vision, LIDAR and high-definition mapping technologies for autonomous trucking. Its millimeter-wave LIDAR units can "see" objects as far as 200 meters, which is over 100 meters more effective than existing LIDAR standards. Currently, the startup has headquarters located in Beijing and San Diego.

"By combining NVIDIA technology with our expertise in computer vision and artificial intelligence, we're building a world-class platform that will disrupt the freight industry," said TuSimple CTO Xiaodi Hou.

According to data from CB Insights, early-stage funding for the development of driverless platforms in China reached a whopping $929 million during the first quarter of 2017. In the nascent autonomous driving sector, NVIDIA boasts partnerships with Baidu, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi and Volvo.

Last month, Audi announced it would incorporate the chipmaker's products into the highly anticipated A8 model. In its collaboration with Baidu, the two groups are working on AI-powered cloud data centers and driverless technologies. Lastly, NVIDIA facilitates the development of AI-powered, autonomous driving solutions under an incubator program operating in Volkswagen's Data Lab.

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