A Deeproute robotaxi exposed.
GUANGZHOU, China – Alibaba has led investments worth more than $ 300 million in Chinese autonomous driving start-up DeepRoute.ai.
The Shenzhen-based start-up manufactures autonomous driving systems for vehicles involving hardware and software. DeepRoute.ai operates a fleet of self-driving taxis, some of which are operated by its partners, including ride-sharing company CaoCao and automaker Dongfeng Motors. But the company is also developing technologies for logistics.
Alibaba’s participation in the round table underscores the ambitions of Chinese tech giants to gain a foothold in the field of self-driving cars. Alibaba is already an investor in another Chinese self-driving car start-up called AutoX and supports electric vehicle maker Xpeng.
Alibaba also has its own logistics branch called Cainiao which plans to develop autonomous trucks.
Maxwell Zhou, CEO of DeepRoute.ai, told CNBC that “most of the money is spent on developing the technology and the rest is on increasing the size of the fleet” of its robotic axis. The money will also be used to hire more talent, Zhou added.
The CEO said the company currently operates around 70 robotaxis and wants to expand its fleet to between 150 and 160. Half of the robotsaxis will be operated by DeepRoute.ai, while the other half will be managed by its 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 shipments as well as delivering freight.
Zhou declined to comment on specific plans with Alibaba, but said “all opportunities are possible.”
There are a few sources of income for DeepRoute.ai. He can bill passengers for his robotaxi service or share his income with a carpooling company. Or it can also sell its autonomous driving system to automakers in exchange for a one-time fee as well as an annual service fee.
In logistics, DeepRoute.ai could manage an autonomous driving fleet for a company or even sell its driverless technology.
China’s autonomous driving industry is becoming very competitive.
Chinese Internet giant Baidu and ride-sharing app Didi are investing in autonomous driving. Many other start-ups in China, including Pony.ai and WeRide, are also investing in this space. Last week, WeRide launched a new product called Robovan designed for urban logistics, an area Deeproute.ai is also exploring.