What’s Driving China’s Autonomous Vehicle Frenzy?

Hina’s autonomous car sector initially gained traction in 2016, when a slew of promising firms sprang up in response to breakthroughs in lidar, computation, and machine learning. However, the young sector was still in first gear, as most of the people working on the technology had computer science backgrounds and few had considerable expertise in the automotive industry. At the time, everyone wanted to create robotaxis, remembers Hongquan Jiang, chairman and managing partner of Bosch’s recently formed venture funding arm in China, Boyuan Capital.

“Back then, you’d be laughed at if you said you were performing Level 2.5 or 3 [the human driver is expected to take control].” “However, industry insiders immediately understood Level 4 [in which the driver can slumber in most scenarios] was still a long way off,” Jiang told TechCrunch. Regardless, the goals of these entrepreneurs kept them on track, and the industry is now experiencing a renaissance in China. Unlike prior generations of founders, more automotive experience is now flowing into the space. This generation also appears to be more pragmatic, focusing on market needs rather than aiming for the skies.

Because of official assistance, a lot of things can happen in China, but not always elsewhere. For startups, this concentration is paying off handsomely. According to Crunchbase, in 2021, the industry had unparalleled growth, with over $8.5 billion invested in robotaxi startups, self-driving truck developers, lidar producers, smart electric car manufacturers, and chipmakers focused on vehicle automation.

Sensors are becoming cheaper and more capable, talent from the AI and automotive industries is consolidating, the government has implemented a host of positive laws, and demand is increasing as China prepares to deal with a decline in its working-age population.

According to Li Zhong, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the working-age population is predicted to shrink to 700 million by 2050, a “sharp decline” from the estimated 830 million in 2030. “According to data issued by the National Bureau of Statistics, this population has been declining since peaking at 925 million in 2011,” Li said, adding that the notion of modifying the present retirement age and deferring retirement was proposed against this backdrop.

According to Li, the government would progressively adopt new retirement regulations across the country rather than imposing them on everyone at the same time. “The amended policies will first apply to persons who are expected to retire at a relatively young age under current laws,” he said, before being extended to more people across the country.