According to 36Kr, KargoBot, a Didi-owned autonomous trucking company, will transition into an independently operated business following the securement of over RMB 450 million (USD 61.8 million) in investment from Erdos Group and other undisclosed organizational investors.
In addition to this development, Wei Junqing, head of Didi’s autonomous driving innovation business, has taken on the role of CEO at KargoBot.
This significant move comes just a week after Didi announced it secured an investment of up to USD 1.49 billion led by Chinese state-owned automotive manufacturer GAC Group. Several sources with knowledge of the matter told 36Kr that the rationale of this transition is the highly specialized nature of long-haul logistics. Operating independently provides KargoBot with the flexibility to secure individual financing and establish external partnerships, thereby accelerating its path to commercialization.
Didi will remain the major shareholder of KargoBot following the RMB 450 million investment. In terms of executive appointments, Meng Xing, COO of Didi’s autonomous driving division, will assume the role of chairman at KargoBot. Huang Zhou, formerly responsible for corporate development at the same division as Meng, will undertake the position of CFO at KargoBot.
KargoBot was initiated as a project in 2021 before Didi officially launched it in April this year. According to Wei’s presentation at Auto Shanghai earlier this year, the decision to delve into autonomous freight was influenced by the enormous scale of bulk logistics, the concentration of routes, and the widening gap in demand and supply for freight drivers, making it suitable for integrating autonomous driving solutions.
Didi has previously shared updates on its autonomous freight operations. In April this year, Didi announced its expansion of Level 4 autonomous driving solutions into the long-haul logistics field through KargoBot, with initial operations to commence between Northwest and North China.
On October 10, KargoBot deployed its first batch of Level 4 autonomous trucks and obtained a permit allowing it to conduct public road testing within Beijing. This follows KargoBot’s previous milestone of obtaining a road testing license for retrofitted vehicles in 2022, with the current expansion covering segments of three key expressways in Beijing for autonomous truck road testing.
KargoBot presently manages a fleet of 150 autonomous heavy trucks, primarily involved in the transportation of coal and other bulk commodities in Northwest and North China.
The company employs a “hybrid intelligence approach,” wherein one truck driver simultaneously controls 2–6 vehicles, meaning a single driver leads multiple autonomous trucks, each equipped with Level 4 capabilities. This approach aims to enhance logistical efficiency across a variety of complex scenarios, including short, medium, and long-haul routes.
KrASIA Connection features translated and adapted content that was originally published by 36Kr. This article was written by Athena Liu for 36Kr.