Chinese startup will launch fully selfdriving taxis in 2024July 3, 2020
The first Chinese unicorn in the field of drones, startup Momenta, spoke about its plans to create a robotax franchise in the cities of China. The company relies on low-cost technologies and 5G mobile communications, which will reduce costs and achieve full autonomy in four years.
It is not known when and how exactly the complete autonomy of transport will be achieved – vehicles that navigate independently in difficult road conditions without human help. To implement this idea, a huge amount of data, advanced algorithms, lengthy tests, checks with many zeros from investors and the support of the authorities are required. Without this, unmanned vehicles remain out of reach.
Nevertheless, Momenta – one of the most expensive Asian startups and the first company in China among unmanned vehicle developers to achieve unicorn status – claims that its entire roboticax fleet will reach the fifth level of autonomy by 2024, that is, it will be able to carry passengers without an insurance driver for driving.
Competitors of Momenta make similar statements: Waymo, the Alphabet subsidiary, told its customers last fall that fully autonomous taxis are on the way. Tesla planned to launch the Robotaxi network in 2020. In China, Poni.ai already offers partially unmanned transportation services. Many companies test with varying degrees of success.
Momenta CEO Khao Xudong claims that his company will be able to achieve full autonomy without a Waymo or Uber budget. By 2018, she herself had attracted more than $ 200 million and has a “stable source of money,” which will last for at least three years. It’s worth noting, TechCrunch writes that the PRC government spends large sums on innovative technologies, in particular, 5G and artificial intelligence, which also includes autonomous transport.
“We will use the 5G infrastructure and recruit a staff of remote maintenance engineers, each of whom will monitor, say, a dozen machines,” – Kao explained. “So we will reduce the cost of security managers to one tenth of the current level.”
When all startup cars become unmanned in 2024, the company will be able to achieve a positive operating profit margin per vehicle. If everything goes according to plan, Momenta will extend this model to other cities outside Suzhou, where the headquarters are located. According to Kao, the business model resembles the McDonald’s franchise: “We will develop a set of standards and copy them in other cities, where we will work with local authorities, taxi services, maintenance services and so on.”
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