Softbank invested $500 million in DiDi, the Uber of China.

$500 Million Investment Boosts Didi, China-based Robotaxi Company

China continues to pump up the world economy, even as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread. While much of the rest of the world contracts in its investments, China forges ahead. A story on says a Japanese company believes that robotaxis are key for China’s future.

The race to automate vehicles on China’s roads is heating up as Didi, the Uber of China, announced on Friday an outsized investment of over $500 million in its freshly minted autonomous driving subsidiary. Leading the round — the single largest fundraising round in China’s autonomous driving sector — is its existing investor Softbank, the Japanese telecom giant and startup benefactor, which has also backed Uber.

The proceeds came through SoftBank’s second Vision Fund, which was reportedly lagging in fundraising as its Fund I recorded massive losses in part due to the collapsing valuation of WeWork.

In 2018, Didi ranked eighth in kilometers of autonomous driving tests carried out in Beijing, far behind search giant Baidu, which accounted for over 90% of the total mileage that year.

The fresh capital will enable Didi’s autonomous business to improve safety — an area that became a focal point of the company after two fatal accidents — and efficiency through conducting R&D and road tests. The financing will also allow it to deepen industry cooperation and accelerate the deployment of robotaxi services in China and abroad.

As an industry observer said, “robotaxis will become a reality only when you have the necessary operational skills, technology and government support all in place.”

On the tech front, the subsidiary is headed by chief executive Zhang Bo, a Baidu veteran, and chief technology officer Wei Junqing, who joined last year from self-driving software company Aptiv.

The Didi investment story has a lot of interesting information that points to China not suffering perhaps as much as some people wish they had for, unleashing this virus and crushing the world’s overall economy. But as the old saying goes, “Business is business.’