In the spring of 2016, Dr. Jianxiong Xiao -- affectionately known among students and staff as "Professor X" -- said goodbye to his plum professorship at Princeton and his post as the founding director of the school's Computer Vision and Robotics Labs. By the fall of that same year, Xiao, known as something of a risk-taker, had moved himself and his family from New Jersey to Silicon Valley, and raised some modest seed funding for his new startup focused on self-driving cars. His startup, dubbed AutoX, has done its best to stay under the radar to date -- apart from a filing with the California DMV to test self-driving vehicles. The filing officially put the professor's mysterious startup in the company of giants, such as Tesla, Waymo (formerly the Google self-driving car project), Uber, and numerous other big auto companies testing self-driving cars. But Xiao isn't worried about getting run over by the giants, saying that his small team of academics possesses the kind of expertise in computer vision that big corporations just can't match.
Xiao Jianxiong never visited a beach until he was 18, despite the fact his childhood home was only 20 miles from the sea. His hometown of Chaoshan, in China's Guangdong Province, was a poor fishing village until recently. Growing up without much money, Xiao's family couldn't afford a car trip to the beach. Today Xiao is hopeful that his company -- AutoX -- will give kids the opportunities he didn't have by making it easier and cheaper for them to get around by car, even if their parents are not able to drive them. "Autonomous driving should not be a luxury," Xiao said in a 2017 speech when he was named one of the "35 Under 35" by the MIT Technology Review.
It would be tough to name another self-driving car company developing technology or moving into new markets at the speed of AutoX. The company's latest achievement is a coveted Driverless Permit granted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), making AutoX just the third company to receive a Driverless Permit in the state of California, according to the California DMV. Essentially the permit allows AutoX to test its cars without a safety driver on public roads within a confined testing zone. The permit also allows for testing with passengers, and AutoX will focus its operations on surface roads in San Jose with a speed limit of up to 45mph. I've written that AutoX is the unlikely little company that could.
AutoX, the Hong Kong and San Jose, Calif.-based autonomous vehicle technology company, is pushing past its grocery delivery roots and into the AV supplier and robotaxi business. AutoX has partnered with NEVS -- the Swedish holding company and electric vehicle manufacturer that bought Saab's assets out of bankruptcy -- to deploy a robotaxi pilot service in Europe by the end of 2020. Under the exclusive partnership, AutoX will integrate its autonomous drive technology into a next-generation electric vehicle inspired by NEVS's "InMotion" concept that was shown at CES Asia in 2017. This next-generation vehicle is being developed by NEVS in Trollhättan, Sweden. Testing of the autonomous NEVs vehicles will begin in the third quarter of 2019.
The robotaxi service is under trial run for citizens in Changsha, and passengers can hail self-driving robotaxis through mobile app. AutoX, a Chinese autonomous vehicle startup, has announced the launch of a fleet of 100 self-driving RoboTaxis in Shanghai's Jiading district, where it will be competing with Didi, which began operating there at the end of June. Other companies, such as Pony.ai, Baidu or WeRide are already running self-driving taxi fleets in other Chinese cities, many of which can be booked through mapping and mobility apps such as AutoNavi or LetzGo. AutoX runs another fleet in the centric district of Nanshan in Shenzen, where it is based, and now has a license to road test in California, and has long announced its intention to launch its services in Europe through a partnership with NEVS, the company that acquired Saab's assets.