15/04/2024

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Backed by Chinese carmaker Great Wall, Haomo raises M for autonomous driving tech

Backed by Chinese carmaker Great Wall, Haomo raises $14M for autonomous driving tech

After a few years of funding frenzy, autonomous driving companies in China are experiencing a slowdown in investment. Some companies are still hauling in capital, though the era of bankrolling several hundred million dollars in a single round has mostly passed.

Haomo.ai, an autonomous driving startup backed by Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor, has raised 100 million yuan, or $14 million, from a fresh round of funding, it said today. The investment is the first tranche of the company’s Series B funding and was led by Chengdu Wufa Private Equity Fund Management, an investment vehicle backed by the government of Chengdu.

As foreign venture capital firms retreat from China, domestic investors, particularly ones with local government funding, have stepped up to back the country’s emerging tech darlings. Four-year-old Haomo has raised over $200 million worth of equity funding, according to startup database ITJuzi, and all of that money was denominated in Chinese yuan.

Chinese food delivery giant Meituan and Qualcomm Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Qualcomm, are among Haomo’s past investors.

Steered by CEO Gu Weihao, a Baidu smart car veteran, Haomo has been focusing on developing Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems for passenger cars, mostly selling to its largest shareholder Great Wall, a major manufacturer of SUVs and pickup trucks in China. It also supplies Level 4 self-driving solutions to logistics vehicles, counting Meituan, Alibaba and JD.com among its clients.

The investment from Chengdu, which is known for its giant pandas and delicious, spicy food, ties Haomo to an agreement to develop robotics for Wuhou, a central district of the city. Local governments in China often compete to become national “demo zones” for cutting-edge technologies through the help of private tech firms. For Wuhou, Haomo’s cleaning and security inspection robots will serve as the centerpiece of the district’s technological showcase.

Haomo’s ADAS solutions, which come with features like automatic braking and lane changing, have powered more than 20 vehicle models and amassed some 120 million kilometers of driving, the company said. Its self-driving delivery vans have ferried close to 300,000 grocery parcels for supermarkets in Beijing.

Haomo is competing with a rank of Chinese AV upstarts that raised money from Western VCs and, such as Pony.ai, WeRide, Momenta, Deeproute. Except for Momenta, all of them set out with the ambition to develop robotaxis. Having realized L4 driving is capital-intensive and still years from widespread adoption, they have opted for a route more similar to that of Haomo, working on less advanced but more readily deployable L2 or L3 products.

Haomo’s advantage is Great Wall’s involvement. Being cradled by a major auto original equipment manufacturer (OEM) provides it with the revenues needed to fund expensive R&D without limiting itself to just selling to one customer. Haomo supplies its ADAS to three other OEMs, according to a company spokesperson, declining to name them.