Chinese autonomous driving company DeepRoute.ai on Tuesday raised $300 million to expand its test vehicles and develop technologies, in a funding round led by e-commerce giant Alibaba. Other investors in the round were China-focused tech investor Jeneration Capital, and Chinese automaker Geely.
The financing comes as automakers and technology firms are investing incredible amounts of money in the autonomous driving industry, to be at the forefront of autonomous driving, which many believe to be the future of mobility.
In particular, the involvement of Alibaba underscores the ambitions of China’s technology giants to secure a solid grip in the autonomous vehicles sector. Alibaba is already an investor in another Chinese autonomous driving car startup called AutoX and is backing electric vehicle maker Xpeng. The company also has its own logistics arm called Cainiao which plans to develop autonomous trucks.
Deep route.ai will use the new funds to double the fleet of its test Robo-taxis to between 150 to 160 by the end of this from the current 70, Chief Executive Officer, Zhou Huang, said. “Money will also go toward hiring more talent”, Zhou Huang added. DeepRoute.ai, which is currently testing vehicles in the Chinese cities of ShenzhenandWuhan, will operate half of the Robo-taxis, while the other half will be operated by its partners. Additionally, the company plans on expanding its workforce from 400 to 600, which will include in-vehicle safety drivers.
The Chinese autonomous driving industry is very competitive, with DeepRoute.ai facing competition from rivals such as WeRide and Pony.ai. Just last week, WeRide launched a new product called Robovan designed for urban logistics, an area that DeepRoute.ai is also exploring. Pony.ai, backed by Toyota Motors, has said earlier that it would develop autonomous trucks. Chinese internet giant Baidu and ride-hailing company Didi have also ventured into the autonomous driving space.
In addition to its autonomous vehicles, DeepRoute.ai is developing technology for logistics. In a press release, the company said its long-term strategy includes developing medium-duty trucks for urban logistics, improving transit for shipments as well as freight delivery. DeepRoute.ai will develop self-driving light-duty trucks for urban logistics services, Chief Executive Officer Zhou Huang said, adding Alibaba would be a big client.