Deeproute.ai, a Chinese self-driving car startup, announced Tuesday that it had raised more than $300 million in a Series B led by Alibaba.
Why it matters: The investment is perhaps Alibaba’s most significant move in autonomous driving.
- The announcement didn’t disclose the size of Alibaba’s investment nor Deeproute’s valuation. Chinese media Che Dongxi reported (in Chinese) that Alibaba poured $200 million into the startup and said it’s valued at more than $1 billion. That would make Deeproute, a two-year-old startup, the newest self-driving unicorn, following Pony.ai and WeRide.
- A Deeproute spokesperson declined to comment on the report.
Details: Alibaba led the Series B. Other investors include Jeneration Capital, a Hong Kong-based venture capital firm, and an investment fund of Chinese automaker Geely, according to the Tuesday announcement.
- Deeproute plans to increase its proprietary fleet of self-driving test vehicles from more than 30 to 100 by the end of this year. An autonomous ride-hailing service already opened to the public in Shenzhen, Deeproute’s regional headquarters, on July 19.
- The company is testing some sedans and trucks for Chinese auto giants Dongfeng Motor Group and Geely in the central city of Wuhan and the eastern city of Hangzhou, among other cities.
- The company also plans to launch a robotaxi pilot project in California later this year. It received a permit from the state in June to provide autonomous rides.
Context: Deeproute develops software for self-driving cars and operates several pilot programs to transport people and goods. In September 2019, Deeproute closed a $50 million pre-Series A, led by Fosun RZ Capital, Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group’s investment affiliate. The company secured an undisclosed amount in Series A a year later.
- Alibaba previously had invested in AutoX, another self-driving startup based in Shenzhen. The e-commerce giant’s investment program, Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, participated in AutoX’s $100 million Series A in September 2019.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of Deeproute’s proprietary test vehicles as 20, not more than 30.