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Innovation

Professor X: RoboTaxi 'gigafactory' to collect petabytes of urban info

A massive RoboTaxi data center is the hub for an enterprising experiment masterminded by a man known as Professor X.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer on
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A self-driving car company called AutoX just opened what it's calling the Shanghai RoboTaxi Operations Center, which will serve as the largest data hub for self-driving car data in China.  The operations center will serve as another tentpole in a 2019 agreement between AutoX and Shanghai municipal authorities to deploy 100 autonomous vehicles in Jiading District. 

In many ways, AutoX is the unlikely little company that could. Since coming out of stealth in 2018 with an announcement that it would begin delivering groceries via its L4 autonomous vehicles, then a major milestone, the company has battled head to head with much larger rival Waymo for a series of L4 autonomy firsts. 

The new operations center, dubbed a "Gigafactory" by AutoX, is another sign of the importance of China to the developing self-driving market. The center will store AutoX's self-driving car data and support what AutoX believes will soon be a large fleet of self-driving cars collectively gathering petabytes of real-world data in Shanghai each week. The building also supports intensive simulation with cloud computers running 24/7. Simulation has become a bedrock of self-driving technology, enabling developers to game out complex scenarios that might never appear even after thousands of miles of road tests.

The facility, the largest RoboTaxi operations center in Asia, builds on AutoX's previous experience operating a fleet of RoboTaxis in Shenzhen, a pilot program launched in 2019 in partnership with BYD, one of the largest electrical vehicle manufacturers in the world. The fleet size of that testbed continues to expand. 

As part of the new Shanghai program, users will soon be able to hail a ride from one of AutoX's RoboTaxis with an app. Cars will be calibrated as needed using a giant turntable surrounded by calibration panels.

Headquartered in Shenzhen, AutoX is expanding rapidly from its scrappy roots and now has eight offices and five R&D centers globally. Its investors include Shanghai Auto, Dongfeng Motor, Alibaba, MediaTek, Capital Today, and Gobi Venture to name a few.

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