Online retailer Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has invested $200 million in autonomous driving developer DeepRoute.ai Ltd.
Founded in 2019, DeepRoute is developing SAE Level 4 “full-stack,” self-driving capabilities for Tier 1 automotive suppliers, ride-hailing services, and logistics providers. Its DeepRoute-Sense II systems include multiple sensors including cameras and lidar, “bird's-eye view” vehicle detection, and semantic mapping and real-time positioning technology.
DeepRoute has also developed simulations for testing autonomous vehicle models, and it uses 5G networks for remote control of vehicles.
DeepRoute plans to ramp up from testing to deployment
DeepRoute has collaborated with Dongfeng Motor and Geely Automobile on robotic taxicabs. The company claimed that it was the first to test 20 robotaxis with human safety drivers in Shenzhen, China. It said it has driven more than 1 million miles on urban roads.
In addition, DeepRoute is partnering with Cao Cao Mobility to deploy “a couple hundred” robotaxis during the 2022 Asian Games. The partners tested five vehicles in Hangzhou, China, last year. The company has offices in Shenzhen and Fremont, Calif.
Alibaba's 19.68% stake in DeepRoute reportedly brings the company's valuation to more than 64 billion yuan ($1 billion U.S.). Alibaba is also working with AutoX, XPeng, and Cainiao on autonomous cars and trucks.
The global market for robotaxis will grow from 617 units in 2021 to 1.4 million units by 2030, predicted Markets and Markets. The research firm cited increasing ride-hailing demand that slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental concerns, and a desire for traffic safety as factors driving growth.
At the same time, Markets and Markets noted that the high cost of research and development and technical challenges with dynamic urban environments are challenges for developers. It also said that industry leaders include AutoX, Baidu, Cruise, Tesla, and Waymo.
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