Neolix Technologies, a self-driving logistics startup based primarily in Beijing, today confirmed that it closed a roughly RMB 200 million ($29 million) series A+ financing round in February of this year. The company said that the proceeds will be put toward ramping up mass production of its self-driving vehicles, which Neolix claims could help reduce carbon emissions while boosting transportation logistics efficiency.
Neolix is one of the countless startups developing autonomous delivery vehicles that are level 4 as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, meaning they’re completely self-driving in some or all situations. The company is chiefly targeting markets like food delivery, mobile retail, and security, with a 136,000-square-meter factory in Changzhou, China that has an annual production capacity of 10,000 vehicles.
Neolix’s shuttle-like cars sport 2.4 x 2.4 x 2.4-meter containers and four-wheel disc breaks. They detect and avoid obstacles using a combination of sensors and HD maps captured with “centimeter-level” accuracy, and they travel up to 100 kilometers (~62 miles) on a single battery charge on roads with inclines up to 20 degrees at speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour (~31 miles per hour).
On the service side, Neolix provides a cloud platform that orchestrates vehicle dispatching, condition monitoring and visualization, error warning management, and driving data analysis. In the event something goes wrong, it enables remote operators to disengage the shuttles’ autonomous systems.
Neolix claims it has sold 225 vehicles to customers like Huawei, Alibaba, Meituan-Dianping, and JD over the past two years, deployed in 10 cities throughout China. (A relatively new client is Dubai-headquartered ecommerce startup Noon.com, for which Neolix is piloting autonomous deliveries.) This year, the goal is to sell as many as 1,000.
Neolix is chasing after China’s gold mine of a driverless car market. According to a McKinsey report, self-driving vehicles and mobility services in the region are expected to be worth more than $500 billion by 2030, when the number of autonomous cars on public roads is expected to reach 8 million.
It’s not the only competitor. In Beijing alone, the city’s Innovation Center for Mobility Intelligent (BICMI) reported that autonomous vehicles from 13 China-based companies — Baidu, Nio, Beijing New Energy, Daimler, Pony.ai, Tencent, Didi, Audi, Chongqing Jinkang, NavInfo, Toyota, and Beijing Sankuai — covered 1.04 million kilometers (~646,226 miles). That’s up from the 153,600 kilometers (~95,442.6 miles) eight firms drove in 2018.
Chinese EV car maker Leading Ideal led Neolix’s latest funding round, which saw participation from Addor Capital and existing backers Yunqi Partners and Glory Ventures. It brings the startup’s total raised since 2018 — its founding year — to over $43 million following a $14.8 million series A round in May 2019.