When Didi created an autonomous vehicle subsidiary in 2020, the venture was seen as a Chinese counterpart to Uber’s AV unit. The tides of change have since swept across China’s tech landscape, where internet firms went through a wave of regulatory crackdown and foreign investments dwindled amid worsening U.S.-China relations. Didi’s AV unit remained in the shadow during Beijing’s data security probe into its parent firm, but it has finally weathered the storm, now freshly pumped with financing.
Previously backed by SoftBank, Didi Autonomous Driving announced today that it will receive up to $149 million in funding from two investors affiliated with the municipal government of Guangzhou, a southern Chinese metropolis: GAC Group’s wholly owned subsidiary GAC Capital and Guangzhou Development District Investment Group.
In China, a relationship with local governments is crucial to bringing a company’s robotaxis onto the road. Though not spelled out in its announcement, it won’t be surprising to see accelerated progress in Didi’s robotaxi rollout in the megacity with 18 million people. In March, Didi’s autonomous vehicles already started commercial operation in the Huadu District of Guangzhou.
With the new proceeds, Didi plans to invest “deeply in research and development, accelerate the implementation of related products, pursue open collaborations in the industry chain, build a sustainable and open industry ecosystem, and expedite the widespread commercial use of autonomous driving technology.”
In April, Didi announced ambitions to introduce self-developed robotaxis to the public on a 24/7 basis by 2025. It’s struck partnerships with a handful of OEMs to build the hardware, including Lincoln, BYD, Nissan and Volvo. Its ties with GAC deepened when it emerged in May it had formed a joint venture with the carmaker’s electric vehicle subsidiary Aion to mass produce plugged-in robotaxis.