With lead in China, RoboTaxi maker turns sights on U.S.

A rare bootstrapped company among tech giants is winning an international game of Risk.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

AutoX expands RoboTaxi empire to San Francisco.


If the race for autonomous vehicles is measured in absolute numbers, a company that's been surprisingly successful navigating real-world rollouts in both China and the U.S. is winning. AutoX now counts more than 1,000 of Level 4 autonomous RoboTaxis in operation in China, and it's been a surprise front runner in U.S. L4 testbeds as well.

The thousand fleet milestone comes as AutoX is riding a wave of recent announcements. In July 2021, AutoX's newest Gen5 system-equipped RoboTaxis started rolling off the production line. More recently, in January 2022, AutoX shared an inside look at its end-of-line, Level 4 fully driverless RoboTaxis dedicated production facility located near Shanghai, China, with a video. Since starting production, the RoboTaxi assembly line has been in full operation. 

Back 2020, capitalizing on a COVID-19 pandemic-induced emphasis on contactless services, the company made headlines with a dual-country approach to autonomy testing and market rollout, essentially cornering the RoboTaxi market in Shanghai while also winning a coveted permit to test its driverless cars without drivers in California, becoming just the third company to be awarded the permit. 

The rapid rise is all the more impressive, given that it seemed to get a late start in the driverless race. AutoX Founder and CEO Jianxiong Xiao, who was the founding director of Princeton's Computer Vision and Robotics Labs before leaving the school in 2016 to found AutoX, started his company with modest seed funding after moving his family from Princeton, NJ, to Silicon Valley in 2016. His value proposition was that inexpensive cameras paired with the right AI would be enough for safe L4 autonomous driving. Unlike competitors, his company operated in stealth until very recently, although a California DMV filing to test self-driving vehicles put him on insiders' radar early on. Behind the scenes, Jianxiong's computer vision bona fides (he's an all-star in the field) have helped him attract major academic talent.

Using inexpensive sensors, Jianxiong says he is on a mission to democratize autonomy via cutting edge AI. The notion of democratizing autonomous driving is embedded deep in AutoX's DNA. It's a rare bootstrapped company in an ecosystem dominated by the likes of Uber, Intel, and Google

With ample presence in China, AutoX is redoubling its U.S. efforts. The company has launched a new RoboTaxi operations center in San Francisco, representing a unique road challenge for autonomous vehicles and in one of the densest urban centers in the U.S. 

"We want to deploy the AutoX RoboTaxi fleet in many cities to serve hundreds of millions of people, as well to improve and become a part of communities around the world. Cities such as San Francisco, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing are the launchpads for RoboTaxis to transform people's daily lives. And that's just the beginning," says Jianxiong. 

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