SenseTime, the world's highest-valued AI unicorn, has opened a new self-driving facility in the historic city if Joso in Japan. The startup said it plans to begin testing driverless cars and other R&D projects at the new facility.
SenseTime is best known for its computer vision and deep learning advancements which have been utilized in object recognition technologies across China. The early utilization of its technologies in retail, healthcare and public security, along with funding from its primary backer, Alibaba, have contributed toward SenseTime's current valuation of $4.5bn.
The startup's latest move into Japan has been triggered by SenseTime's deal with Japanese vehicle manufacturing firm, Honda. The auto giant and SenseTime agreed to work together on self-driving cars back in 2017.
Along with the AI firm's move to Japan, it is also seeking a further $2bn in new funding.
Japan has been making big pushes into AI in recent years, with a specific interest in autonomous vehicles. This is because the nation is experiencing one of the most drastic cases of a shrinking labor force due to its aging population and strict immigration policies. The Japanese government has already announced it intends to have self-driving cars operational of public roads in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Following the announcement by SenseTime, Joso's Mayor Takeshi Kandatsu said: "We are glad to have the company setting up an R&D center for autonomous driving in our city. I believe autonomous driving vehicles will bring not only revolutionary changes to our traffic system, but also solutions to regional traffic problems. With the help of SenseTime.
"I look forward to seeing autonomous cars running on the roads of Joso. We will give full support to make it happen," he added.