BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's Didi Chuxing said on Friday it had completed a fundraising round of over $500 million for its autonomous driving subsidiary that was led by SoftBank Group's <9984.T> Vision Fund 2.
The ridehailing giant said in a statement the round marked the first time Didi's autonomous driving business had brought in external funding since it became a standalone unit last year and was also the single largest fundraising round in China's self-driving sector.
Didi said it would use the capital to invest further in the research and development of autonomous driving technology as well as testing, and accelerate the deployment of autonomous driving services.
Didi has gained open-road testing licences in California, Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou, it said. It first began to develop and test autonomous driving vehicles in 2016.
The fundraising comes as SoftBank has been selling off other stakes to raise cash for stock buybacks aimed at supporting the price of its shares as its tech investments falter. Some of the Japanese firm's investments, including Uber <UBER.N> and Indian-based hotel chain Oyo, have been hugely impacted by lockdowns in the coronavirus pandemic.
Autonomous driving technology has remained popular with investors even amid the pandemic. Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O> this month raised an additional $750 million in its first external investment round, while China's Pony.ai raised $462 million from investors led by Toyota Motor <7203.T> in February.
(Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh; Additional Reporting by Yilei Sun; editing by Jason Neely and David Evans)