Bloomberg: An autonomous electric vehicle startup backed by Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc is considering raising about $300 million to $400 million in fresh funds, according to people familiar with the situation.
Jidu Auto, a joint venture set up by Baidu with China automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, is sounding out potential investors and could seek a valuation of about $3.5 billion in the round, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter.
The autonomous-driving electric vehicle maker’s latest funding round could mark the introduction of backers other than Baidu and Geely, which jointly invested $400 million in the startup’s series A fundraising in January. Jidu sought a valuation of as much as $2 billion in that round, the people said.
Discussions with outside investors are at an early stage and details such as Jidu’s valuation and the proposed funding size could still change, the people said. Representatives for Baidu, Geely and Jidu didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Founded in 2021, Jidu is 53.2% owned by Baidu, according to the internet firm’s latest annual report. The startup unveiled a concept version of its self-driving EV in June, and is eyeing mass production for the vehicle in 2023. Jidu also wants to use the model for its robotaxi service planned to launch the same year, potentially leveraging Baidu’s autonomous driving technologies that have been in development since 2013. Baidu was among the first to obtain a permit in April to operate self-driving robotaxis in China.
Carmakers are racing to commercialize driverless technology amid scrutiny from regulators and skepticism that full automation is truly within reach. Tesla Inc.’s top artificial intelligence executive announced his departure last month, casting doubt on its goal of launching a robotaxi-focused vehicle next year and start mass production in 2024.