Artificial intelligence

Nvidia, maker of graphics chips, gets into China’s self-driving cars with investment in Tusimple

Beijing self-driving start-up receives first funding by Nvidia in China’s red hot self-driving industry

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 8:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 9:05pm

Tusimple, a Beijing-based start-up focused on developing autonomous trucks, has received funding from US firm Nvidia – the first investment by the graphics chip giant in China’s red hot self-driving industry.

The investment amount wasn’t disclosed, but was part of a series B-funding round. Nvidia will own 3 per cent of Tusimple’s following its investment, according to the Beijing-based firm.

Previously, Tusimple received 50 million yuan (US$7.43 million) in angel investment from Chinese telecom company Sina, and the start-up also said it had secured financing from various investors in its latest Series-B funding round.

A total of US$929 million was invested in driverless technology in China including self-driving vehicles, in this year’s first quarter, according to a report by research firm CB Insights, making it one of the most popular sectors for early-stage investment.

Nvidia has already forged self-driving alliances with automakers Audi, Toyota and Volvo and has a partnership with Chinese internet giant Baidu to bring artificial intelligence to cloud computing, self-driving vehicles and AI home assistants.

Tusimple is now part of Nvidia’s AI programme for start-ups, which aims to encourage collaboration and promote the US chip designer’s technology, including the Drive PX 2 platform, a AI computing platform for self-driving cars.

According to co-founder and chief operating officer Jianan Hao, Tusimple will use part of the investment from Nvidia for research, development and recruitment.

The startup, which also has an research centre in San Diego, has tested its autonomous trucks in Arizona, and a port city in Hebei province in China. The company now plans to test self-driving trucks on a Chinese expressway next month.

Hao said the firm aims to work with different types of investors and that Nvidia’s investment is a strategic one.

The graphics-chip specialist, co-founded by Taiwan-born American entrepreneur Jensen Huang, has been looking for partners to commercialise self-driving technology, according to Hao, adding Tusmple’s tests on self-driving trucks offer valuable data.

“They [Nvidia] want to see their technology being used on the ground as quickly as possible,” Hao said.