Autonomous Trucking Startup Inceptio Technologies Raises $270 Million in Latest Series B Round
【Summary】Autonomous truck startup Inceptio Technologies announced Tuesday it closed on a US$270 million Series B equity financing round. The funding round was jointly led by Wisconsin-based trucking firm JD Logistics, Chinese e-commerce platform operator Meituan, and PAG, one of Asia’s leading investment firms.
Autonomous truck startup Incepto Technologies announced Tuesday it closed on a US$270 million Series B equity financing round. The funding round was jointly led by Wisconsin-based trucking firm JD Logistics, Chinese ecommerce platform operator Meituan, and PAG, one of Asia's leading investment firms.
Existing shareholders also include NIO Capital and Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL). CATL led Inceptio Technologies' previous funding round of US$120 million in Nov 2020.
Inceptio Technologies was founded in 2018 and is focused on developing an autonomous logistics platform and aims to build a nationwide freight network using autonomous trucks. The company is one of many developing autonomous trucks that have the potential to make shipping goods safer and more efficient using a Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS) platform using fleets of self-driving trucks.
The company's CEO, Julian Ma, worked at Tencent prior to joining Inceptio, where he served as corporate vice president in charge of locations-based services and Tencent's autonomous driving business. Ma also served as a board member for Chinese EV startup NIO Inc and California autonomous shuttle developer Zoox.
The company is based in Shanghai, but operates a Silicon Valley office in Fremont, CA. Inceptio's team includes former engineers from Google, Uber ATG, Zoox and Apple.
Much of the company's focus is the development of a long range perception system for Class-8 self-driving trucks. Large trucks carrying freight need more distance to stop, so the perception systems being developed today for self-driving passenger vehicles do not always have sufficient range for long-haul trucks traveling on highways.
Inceptio's CTO, Dr Ruigang Yang, is a renowned computer vision scientist and was responsible for developing the company's long range perception system. Before joining Inceptio, Yang led the Robot and Autonomous Driving Laboratory of Baidu Research in China.
Inceptio Technology will use its new funding to further develop its full-stack autonomous driving system it calls "Xuanyuan", as well as expedite its deployment of fully-electric trucks on its logistics network.
Inceptio unveiled its Xuanyuan autonomous driving platform in March. It was developed entirely in-house. It will be initially deployed on two Level-3 autonomous heavy-duty trucks that Inceptio Technologies jointly developed with Dongfeng Trucks, one of China's leading truck brands, as well as Hong Kong truck manufacturer Sinotruk.
The trucks are expected for mass production and delivery by the end of 2021. The Xuanyuan autonomous driving platform is software-based, so it can be updated over-the-air (OTA). Via OTA updates, the system will help the trucks advance into Level 4 in the future, which requires no human supervision during normal operation. Inceptio aims to build a nationwide network of Level 4 autonomous trucks.
Incepto's autonomous freight network has already been embraced by a number of top tier shippers and fleets in China, the company said.
From an engineering standpoint, developing autonomous trucks for highway runs is much less challenging than self-driving passenger vehicles and shuttles that are designed to operate around pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles in dense urban areas.
The Xuanyuan platform can be installed in many popular truck models to convert them for autonomous driving.
For its customers, Inceptio is offering a pay-by-mile service. The company's dispatch system uses advanced algorithms to match available trucks and drivers, which is a similar business model as Uber's trucking and logistics unit Uber Freight. It's designed to optimize fuel consumption and improve the utilization of truck fleets.
Without a regulatory framework for the deployment of self-driving passenger vehicles, companies like Inceptio Technologies are focusing more on autonomous trucks for long haul freight delivery, which will likely be a reality before self-driving vehicles carrying passengers.
Other companies working on self-driving technology for long-haul trucks include Waymo, Amazon-backed TuSimple, Embark, Aurora and BMW-backed Kodiak Robotics.
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