Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – Company e-commerce made by Jack Ma, Alibaba, led investments worth more than US$ 300 million or equivalent to Rp. 4.35 trillion (exchange rate of Rp. 14,500/US$) into start-ups autonomous driving or China’s steeringless service, DeepRoute.ai.
Start-up based in Shenzhen makes a steeringless system (self driving) for vehicles involving hardware and software.
DeepRoute.ai runs a fleet of autonomous taxis some of which are operated by its partners including companies ride-hailing CaoCao and automaker Dongfeng Motors. In addition, the company is also developing technology for logistics.
Alibaba’s involvement in the funding round underscores the ambition of the Chinese tech giant to strengthen its presence in the driverless car field.
Alibaba is already an investor in another Chinese self-driving car start-up called AutoX and is co-funding electric vehicle maker Xpeng.
Alibaba actually has its own logistics arm called Cainiao which plans to develop driverless trucks.
Photo: Deeproute.ai robotaxi (Deeproute.ai) view
Deeproute.ai robotaxi view (Deeproute.ai)
Maxwell Zhou, CEO of DeepRoute.ai, told CNBC International that most of the money was spent on developing the technology and the rest on expanding the fleet size of the company’s ‘robotic taxis’.
“The funds will also be used to hire more new talent,” Zhou said.
He mentioned the company currently operates around 70 robotaxis and wants to expand its fleet to between 150 and 160. Half will be operated by DeepRoute.ai, while the other half will be run by partners, Zhou said.
In a press release, the company said its long-term strategy includes developing medium-duty trucks for urban logistics, improving transit for shipping as well as freight transport.
Zhou declined to comment on what specific projects were being implemented with Alibaba, but said “every chance is possible” [untuk terlaksana].”
From the commercial side, there are several sources of income that can be worked on by DeepRoute.ai. First the company can charge passengers for services robotaxi or profit sharing with partner transportation companies.
The two companies can also sell their autonomous driving systems to automakers in exchange for a one-time fee as well as millions of annual service fees.
In the logistics segment, DeepRoute.ai can run driverless fleets with corporate clients or also sell/lease its driverless technology.
China’s driverless car industry is increasingly competitive. Chinese internet giant Baidu and apps ride-hailing Didi also invests in technology autonomous driving.
Amount start-up others in China including Pony.ai and WeRide are also investing money in the business. Last week, WeRide launched a new product called Robovan designed for urban logistics, an area that Deeproute.ai is also exploring.