Deeproute.ai, an autonomous vehicle startup with offices in Shenzhen and Fremont, Calif., on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious self-driving solution.
The package named deeproot-driver 2.0 is a production-ready level 4 system that costs approximately $10,000. The price tag is incredible considering the hardware used: five solid-state lidar sensors, eight cameras, a proprietary computing system, and an optional millimeter-wave radar.
A DeProte spokesperson told Nerdshala that lidar accounts for about half of the total cost. “As the whole supply chain becomes more developed and scaled”[s] Up, we can expect the cost to go down further.”
The two-year-old startup is unapologetic about going up against its more mature counterparts. As stated in its release on Wednesday, “The deeproot-driver 2.0 provides a differentiation from existing L4 pioneers such as Waymo and Cruze, which boast sophisticated and efficient L4 algorithms, but with a hefty price tag, and Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) such as Tesla, which are inexpensive but have limited capabilities in terms of fully automated driving.
Sensor makers in China are working to reduce the once exorbitant prices of lidar to make them suitable for mass production. The DJI-spawned Livox is one, and so is the Temasek-backed innovation.
DeProte’s L4 solution uses two pieces of Lidar from Robosense based in Shenzhen as its main lidar on the roof of the car. Three other lidar sensors from Beijing-based Z Vision are located front, left and right around the rear wheel, covering the vehicle’s blind spot. Z Vision and DeProte are both backed by Fosun RZ Capital, an affiliate fund of Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group.
The lower price of DeProte’s L4 technology could mean lower profits for the startup, or, it is squeezing the margins of its suppliers, the founder of an autonomous vehicle startup has suggested to Nerdshala.
A test drive shows that DeProte’s L4 system is capable of navigating congested traffic in the city of Shenzhen, performing tasks such as flexible lane changes, merging pedestrians and auto on- or off-ramp.
Although just two years old, the team behind DeProte includes leaders in China’s self-driving industry. In 2019, Zhou Guang founded DeProte after he was forced into an internal battle with his last company, Roadstar.ai. At the time, Roadstar had raised at least $140 million from investors and was widely considered a promising player in the autonomous vehicle space.
Investors are in favor of Zhou’s new venture. In September, the startup announced $300 million Series B round from Alibaba, Generation Capital, Chinese automaker Geely, among others.
It is not uncommon to see OEMs and carmakers pouring money into AV startups in exchange for production partnerships in the future. For example, Momenta has made several strategic investments from giants such as Bosch, Toyota and Daimler.
While dProut hasn’t officially secured a customer for its L4 solution, a spokesperson for the startup said that some “major automakers” have moved into ride-hailing cars integrated with the technology and “they offer functionality as well as value.” were affected by the determination.”
“We are very positive at the prospect of signing the contract soon,” the spokesperson said.