SEOUL -- Mars Auto, an artificial intelligence startup that develops self-driving technology for trucks in South Korea, has raised $12 million in the Series A funding round led by GFT Ventures, a venture capital investment firm based in California, reflecting investors' interest in the level of the company's technology development.
Autonomous truck driving must be implemented with completely different models in a high-speed environment. Mars Auto develops a perception-based system, consisting primarily of cameras, to enable self-driving trucks for warehouse-to-warehouse shipping. The company has successfully tested South Korea's first self-driving truck installed with cameras and small computers on a highway from Seoul to the southern port city of Busan for five and a half hours without driver intervention.
Mars Auto said that the new round of financing would be used to expand its engineering team, increase a truck fleet, and build the necessary infrastructure to train vast amounts of driving data. "Mars Auto is delighted to partner with GFT Ventures as we execute toward our shared vision of innovative mid-mile delivery services, ultimately creating the pathway for fully autonomous trucking," CEO Park Il-su said in a statement on May 4.
GFT Ventures' founding managing partner, Jeff Herbst, will join Mars Auto's board. "Freight movement in South Korea is largely dominated by three major highways across the nation, which presents an excellent opportunity to prove the technology, and at the same time to provide a complete solution for Mars' initial customers," Herbst was quoted as saying.
Mars Auto has collaborated with Logisquare, a domestic business-to-business logistics service company. In April 2022, the two companies established a joint venture to carry out a truck logistics business based on autonomous driving technology. Mars Auto provides self-driving trucks and technical services, while Logisquare is responsible for logistics infrastructure, know-how, and a digital logistics management system.
The joint venture would verify the efficiency of self-driving trucks in a pilot operation of 10 trucks. The two companies have already carried out cargo transportation using self-driving trucks on a 450km round trip for one year from November 2020.
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