Chinese tech giant ByteDance, owner of TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin, has reportedly invested in autonomous driving startup QCraft Inc.
If confirmed, it would join the ranks of fellow tech companies such as Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei in entering the world’s largest auto market.
Beijing-based ByteDance is investing in QCraft’s latest fundraising round of at least $25 million, according to Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter. The deal could be announced as early as next week.
In a response to Securities Times, QCraft said the company has recently completed a series A1 round of financing and raised tens of millions of dollars in investment, without giving an exact figure or naming the investors.
Both ByteDance and QCraft did not immediately respond to Pandaily’s requests for comment.
Silicon Valley-based QCraft was founded in 2019 by four Waymo engineers. The rest of the company’s workforce hail from self-driving companies including Tesla, Uber, and Ford, as well as tech firms like Nvidia and Facebook.
It employs large-scale intelligent simulation systems and a self-learning framework for decision making and planning, reducing tests costs associated with autonomous-driving technologies and boosting efficiency, according to the company.
Just four months after the company’s establishment, QCraft acquired the California public road test permit. After opening their offices in Beijing, Suzhou and Shenzhen in December 2019, the company released Longzhou One, its first robobus with a self-developed autonomous driving solution less than a year later in July 2020.
Currently, minibuses using QCraft’s technology are in operation on open roads in cities including Suzhou and Shenzhen. The company, also backed by IDG Capital, Vision+ Capital, and Tide Capital, plans to have at least 100 autonomous buses on open roads in China by the end of this year.
Recently, China’s carmakers, startups and tech companies have been racing to bring autonomous vehicles to the consumer passenger market, either by entering joint ventures or through acquisitions of tech firms. According to a 2019 McKinsey report, China’s digital giants are set to dominate in-car connectivity operating systems and develop the industry standard.
The Chinese government has included autonomous cars as one of the key sectors in its ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative, which aims to transform the country into a leading manufacturer of high-end, innovative products.
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The government hopes to see 30% of cars sold by 2025 to have smart connectivity and has been providing extensive policy support to the EV sector, including tax subsidies, license plate laws, and registration benefits.