Softbank closes $500 million funding round for Didi's autonomous driving unit

The funding will be invested to develop autonomous vehicles for Didi's ride-hailing service.

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Image: Didi Chuxing

China's Didi Chuxing has banked $500 million in investment dollars for its autonomous driving subsidiary following the closure of its first funding round led by Softbank Vision Fund 2.

The investment is expected to help the Chinese ride-hailing service develop and eventually deploy its first fleet of autonomous vehicles in specific areas in China and abroad.

"Didi aims to launch autonomous fleet operations in select locations as China seeks to build a comprehensive digital infrastructure network based on 5G, AI, and IoT technologies," the company said.

"Didi also plans to further deepen cooperation with global upstream and downstream auto industry partners towards mass production of autonomous driving vehicles, with the aim of advancing the transformation of the global automotive and transportation industries."

See also: 1 in 10 vehicles will be autonomous by 2030 (TechRepublic)

The company has been working on developing and testing autonomous vehicle technology since 2016, and in August last year spun out its autonomous driving unit into an independent company.

Didi has also been operating automated test vehicles in Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou in China, as well as the state of California in the US.

The funding round comes off the back of Softbank CEO and chairman Masayoshi Son announcing that the development of Vision Fund 2 has been stalled due to a lack of funding.

"The performance of SoftBank Vision Fund 1 is not that great, therefore we decided to invest our own money. As the performance is not very good, of course, the money for SoftBank Vision Fund 2 cannot be asked from other people. It's not popular right now," Son said last month.

Softbank Vision Fund posted a ¥1 trillion loss for the fiscal year ending March 31, which the company attributed to the coronavirus pandemic

For the full year, the Vision Fund experienced a ¥1.93 trillion loss. Compared to the year prior, the fund posted a ¥1.26 trillion on-paper profit.

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