Senior Automation, a Chinese startup that offers driverless solutions for port transportation, has raised over 100 million yuan (about $14).
million) in a Series A funding round, the Rs 36 kr company said.
The investment in Senior Automation was led by Tsinghua Innovation Ventures and Winreal Investment. Estar Capital is also among the investors who participated in the latest funding round.
Senior Automation will use the funds to increase R&D investment, expand driverless operations in port transportation, and develop new business scenarios.
Founded in April 2020, Senior Automation specializes in driverless solutions and operational services for all port transportation.
The company has 150 employees, 110 of whom are research and development employees. All its core members have more than 10 years of research and development experience in the field of autonomous driving.
He Bei, CEO of Senior Automation said the company deployed the first batch of about 100 vehicles to six major Chinese ports this year.
He also said that the company can pave the way for its business model by accumulating results, gaining a stable and strong reputation in the industry, and proving its competitive advantage. Since its inception, Senior Automation has focused primarily on the large-scale commercialization of unmanned transportation in ports. It independently developed driverless trucks and heavy equipment trucks for container transport in port areas.
In June 2021, Senior Automation signed a contract to ship its products to Ningbo Dock in Zhejiang Province to make a profit. After its establishment, the company took only a year to market its products.
Like Ningbo, its fleet of about 100 driverless trucks is constantly in use in ports such as Tangshan in Hebei province, Zhuhai in Guangdong province, Suzhou in Jiangsu province, Xiamen in Fujian province, and Suqian in Jiangsu province.
Before vehicles can take off without a human driver, there are several technical challenges to overcome. Mistakes, such as loading the wrong containers onto transport vehicles, must also be avoided.
He asserts that In senior automation, such problems can only be solved manually, and there is no single way to solve them. The company is therefore moving forward step by step, said the CEO, referring to the Chinese expression, “Mo zhe shi tou guo he” (to cross the river by touching the stones). The company’s Driverless vehicles have been in full service since late 2021, when the driving support staff was phased out.
There is a persistent shortage of port drivers in China as the overall demand for transportation increases. They must also meet high standards, including a valid A2 driving license for large trailers and trucks and at least six years of driving experience.
In addition, the salary of transporters has almost doubled over the past five years, from 6,500 yuan (about $932) per month to 12,000 yuan per month.
The market for unmanned transport in port areas is large, as the penetration of automation in Chinese ports is currently less than 1% and the majority of containerized goods are transported by trucks with drivers.