Just 19 months old, Qingtian Truck is nearing a shutdown and employees have been dismissed, according to local media.

(Image from Qingtian Truck website)

A Chinese self-driving truck startup that was previously sued by Pony.ai is reportedly winding down, the latest setback seen in the space.

Just 19 months old, Qingtian Truck is nearing a shutdown, with employees having been displaced and its operating entity facing liquidation, according to a report by local media outlet Jiemian today.

Qingtian Truck's engineers have also been leaving the company, the report said, citing self-driving industry sources.

The company's registration information has not yet changed and its operating status remains intact, although its website has not been updated with company news since January, the report noted.

Qingtian Truck was founded in Beijing in November 2021 to work on self-driving truck technology.

It received an angel funding round of nearly $10 million from 5Y Capital, the only round it has disclosed, just two and a half months after its founding.

In August 2022, Pony.ai, a self-driving startup backed by Toyota Motor and Capital, sued Qingtian Truck and its key executives, Pan Zhenhao and Sun Youhan, alleging that the latter had infringed on Pony.ai's trade secrets.

Pan and Sun are two of the founders of Qingtian Truck and had worked for Pony.ai.

Pony.ai asked the court to order Qingtian Truck to stop infringing on its trade secrets and ask it to pay economic damages and expenses totaling RMB 60 million ($8.3 million).

In April, Qingtian Truck filed a countersuit against Pony.ai, claiming that the latter had abused its intellectual property rights and engaged in unfair competition.

In June, the two announced that they had reached a settlement, each withdrawing its lawsuit against the other.

It's unclear what the main reason is for the current woes facing Qingtian Truck, but investors appear to be increasingly cautious about the prospects for commercialization in the autonomous driving space at a time of slowing economic growth in China.

On May 15, Shanghai Securities News reported that e-commerce giant Alibaba's DAMO Academy is no longer retaining its autonomous driving business and team, which is being fully integrated into its logistics arm Cainiao.

This means that Alibaba's self-driving business is entering a whole new phase of moving from cutting-edge technology exploration in the lab to applications in real-world scenarios, the report noted.

($1 = RMB 7.2135)

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