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‘Smartphones x personal mobility’: Xiaomi a step closer to making self-driving EVs

Xiaomi, the third-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, has expressed its interest in entering the electric car market.

In line with this business strategy, Xiaomi is reportedly planning to participate in a $231 million investment round for Black Sesame Technologies, Inc., according to anonymous sources, Bloomberg reported.

Based in Shanghai, Black Sesame is a startup specializing in artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous driving chip. The company could value up to $1.5 billion after the fundraising.

Xiaomi and Black Sesame representatives declined to comment on the matter amid the rumors of an investment round.

If it becomes a reality, Xiaomi’s agreement with Black Sesame would mark the smartphone maker’s next step as it moves closer toward the electric vehicle (EV) market. Apart from producing smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearable devices, and other smart home products, Xiaomi has had experience in personal mobility with its popular Mi Electric Scooter (M365), an aluminum frame scooter that has a range of up to 30 km and a top speed of 25 kph.

Xiaomi millionaire co-founder Lei Jun revealed a $10 billion plan to manufacture EVs over the next 10 years back in March.

Besides Xiaomi, Apple and Huawei are the two other smartphone makers that have shared their plans in entering the autonomous automotive industry.

These smartphone giants predict that future cars will become more self-driving and connected, thanks to 5G and other emerging wireless network standards.

Led by its founder and CEO Elon Musk, Tesla is currently at the forefront of autonomous EV space with its electric car models, such as the Model S and the Model X.

Black Sesame is an AI company established in 2016 focusing on image processing, perception algorithms, and system-on-a-chip designs with a 300-employee workforce, the majority of which is focused on research and development (R&D).

The company has business relationships with German company Robert Bosch GmbH, and Chinese automakers BYD Auto Co Ltd, and SAIC Motor Corp Ltd.