From watching games "soak" it would seem that none of the AI scout ships move, at all, ever. I believe this is root cause of their very slow starts.
I believe I heard/read that the AI does not send colony ships / constructors out unless it's already seen a planet / resources to colonize / mine. Therefore, it's limiting itself to whatever it's survey ship (or whatever the other initial starting ship is called) discovers.
Edit: Nevermind, it would appear that applying the fow command, somehow affects scouts ships. Using fowtrans instead of fow, you can see the scout ships are moving about.
Not sure why the AI is starting so slow