Beijing-based autonomous driving startup Haomo.AI has raised nearly 1 billion yuan (close to USD 150 million) in its Series A financing round, giving itself strong financial momentum to expand in the new year.
Haomo has already entered the unicorn rank after this round. Investors are Meituan, GL Ventures, which is Hillhouse Capital’s early-stage investment unit, Qualcomm Ventures, Hong Kong-listed Shoucheng Holdings Limited and JZ Capital participated in the round.
Haomo will spend the fresh funds on autonomous driving technology R&D and talent pool building. The Series A round builds upon hundreds of million yuan it raised in February this year from Shougang Fund, Meituan, and GL Ventures.
“It marks the first victory we have ever gained in our battle for survival in the protracted autonomous driving race,” said chairman of the board Zhang Kai, referring to the completion of the Series A round.
“Haomo looks to work with partners and investors at home and abroad to speed up the rollout of new products and services,” he added.
“By the end of 2022, Haomo expects to make its in-house developed Level 2 autonomous driving system available in 34 vehicle models, up from the current five models,” said CEO Gu Weihao, adding that over 1 million passenger vehicles are expected to be powered by this system in the next three years.
The system, named NOH (Navigation on HPilot) and available on Great Wall vehicle models WEY Mocca, Tank 300, WEY Latte, WEY Macchiato and Haval, have assisted users to drive more than 4 million kilometers, mainly on highways, with features such as automatic lane changing.
A GL Ventures representative said: “We are very optimistic about the current team of Haomo due to their experience and expertise in research and mass production.” The venture capital firm has been tracking autonomous driving closely and has invested in companies specializing on chips, computing platforms, and sensors.
Haomo, as a strategic production partner of Meituan, is helping the company enlarge its automatic delivery scale, said a Meituan representative.
In addition to providing Level 2 self-driving system, Haomo also produces unmanned Level 4 autonomous driving logistics vehicles. In this area, the company has partners including Meituan, Dmall, which is supermarket chain Wumart’s on-demand grocery delivery unit, and Alibaba DAMO Academy as well. Haomo has built a 5,000 square-meter plant in Baoding, Hebei province, the biggest of its kind worldwide in terms of production capacity.
Such logistics vehicles are now delivering groceries to residents for Dmall in the district of Shunyi, Beijing and transporting e-commerce parcels at universities for Alibaba in cities such as Wuhan, Hubei province, and Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
“Since its first financing round, we have witnessed Haomo’s rapid growth and we expect the company to make eye-catching achievements industrywide in the future, leveraging on its tie with the Great Wall Motor,” the Meituan representative said.
“Digital transformation is sweeping across all major industries and markets, including automotive,” said James Shen, Vice President, Qualcomm International, and Managing Director of Qualcomm Ventures China. “Looking ahead into the future of mobility, we’re excited to support the continuous innovations of autonomous driving solution providers that serve mass-produced vehicles such as Haomo, to help drive connected and intelligent automotive experiences.”
Twenty percent of new passenger vehicles in China have gained Level 2 automated driving capabilities, according to data disclosed by Xiao Yaqing, Chinese minister of industry and information technology on the World Intelligent Connected Vehicles Conference 2021 held in September in Beijing.