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Baidu & Geely's New Smart Electric Vehicle Company JiDU Raises $400 Million in Series A Round

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【Summary】Newly formed intelligent electric vehicle company JIDU announced that it has closed on $400 million in Series A financing. The funding round was backed by China’s internet giant Baidu Inc and its strategic partner automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group ("Geely"). JIDU is committed to creating a revolutionary electric vehicle that combines “intelligence and emotion”, which it says will lead to a profound change in personal transportation.

Eric Walz    Jan 26, 2022 9:00 AM PT
Baidu & Geely's New Smart Electric Vehicle Company JiDU Raises $400 Million in Series A Round
JiDU's autonomous and electric "Robocar" will be unveiled in April at the Beijing Auto Show.

Newly formed intelligent electric vehicle company JIDU announced that it has closed on $400 million in Series A financing. The funding round was backed by China's internet giant Baidu Inc and its strategic partner automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group ("Geely").

JiDU is a new joint venture backed by technology company Baidu and Chinese automaker Geely, which is the parent company of Swedish automaker Volvo Cars. JiDU's parent Baidu is often referred to as the "Google of China''. 

Baidu holds a 55% stake in JiDU, while the other 45% is held by Shanghai Maple Automobile Co., Ltd., a company which Geely serves as the majority shareholder. 

As a new electric vehicle company in a highly competitive industry, JiDU's mission is to create and design a human-centric, smart robotic vehicle with AI-powered human-machine interaction technology. The vehicle will have the innate ability to learn and progress while delivering superior autonomous driving capabilities.

The plans to establish JiDU were announced a year ago. The company was officially established in March 2021 and received over $300 million in start-up capital.  

JiDU's total funding has now reached $700 million in less than a year. 

In April of last year, JiDU's CEO Xia Yiping told Reuters that the company aims to invest 50 billion yuan ($7.7 billion) into producing autonomous cars over the next five years. 

With the latest funding round, JIDU said it will continue accelerating its R&D work and achieve mass production of its first vehicle, which will be an intelligent vehicle that can drive itself. 

JiDU's first "Robocar'' concept will be unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show in April this year, with a mass-produced model set to be launched in 2023. So far, the company has only shared a teaser photo of its futuristic vehicle.

JIDU says it's committed to creating a revolutionary electric vehicle that combines "intelligence and emotion", which it says will lead to a profound change in personal transportation. The company says its robocar will offer an outstanding user experience and cost-effectiveness, setting an industry benchmark for smart cars. 

JiDU's parent company Geely is one of China's best-selling automotive brands and will contribute its expertise in automobile design and manufacturing at scale. The Chinese automaker also holds a 9.7% stake of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler AG.

"It has only been 10 months since JIDU started its journey," said CEO Yiping Xia. "With the support of cutting-edge AI technology combined with a high-quality vehicle platform and manufacturing process, JIDU's efficient development of automotive robot has been proven – the brain, nerve system, and body of the Robocar are all under rapid development. When the product is delivered, it will be a benchmark-level product."

The company announced at CES in Las Vegas earlier this month that its electric robocar will use the powerful NVIDIA DRIVE Orin system-on-a-chip (SoC) to support Level-4 autonomous driving capabilities. The vehicle will also feature an intelligent digital cockpit system assisted by technology from Baidu and Qualcomm. 

The digital dash of JiDU's robocar will be based on the 4th generation of Qualcomm's Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platform. It will be combined with an intelligent cockpit and vehicle software jointly developed by JiDU and Baidu. It's expected to be the world's first production vehicle to feature a Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platform in China. 

As a new EV company in China, JIDU is already being recognized for its innovative product development process and the speed at which it has developed its first model, outperforming the industry average of 3 to 4 years with the backing of Baidu and Geely.

Moving forward, JIDU will continue to expand its R&D team with a focus on talent acquisition, especially in fields including advanced autonomous driving, smart cockpit and smart manufacturing as the company looks to take on its domestic rivals NIO Inc and XPeng, as well as current segment leader Tesla. 

In June, JiDU announced it hired Frank Wu, formerly of Cadillac, to lead its design studio in China. Prior to joining JiDU, Wu spent seven years at General Motors, where he led the design of the Cadillac CT6. 

JiDU's parent company Baidu continues its own work on autonomous driving. At Baidu's annual "Baudi World 2021" conference held last August in China, the tech giant shared its progress on AI and autonomous driving.

Among the highlights of the event, Baidu co-founder and CEO Robin Li unveiled his vision for mobility of the future in the form of a futuristic "robocar", which he said was designed to make autonomous vehicles more accessible to the broader public. 

Baidu's robocar features automated gull-wing doors and a transparent glass roof to make the interior feel more spacious for passengers. Each vehicle includes a suite of external sensors for safe navigation on public streets. 

Other features include voice and facial recognition and advanced AI technology. The vehicle can analyze the internal and external surroundings and make predictive suggestions to proactively serve the needs of its passengers, Li said.

"We believe that cars of the future will be robocars. They will drive autonomously, act as both an intelligent assistant and loyal companion, and be self-learning," said Li, as he unveiled the robocar with Level-5 autonomous driving capabilities.

Its not clear how much of this technology will be shared with JiDU's first electric vehicle.

Li believes that vehicles in the future EVs will be more like "intelligent robots" rather than passenger vehicles. He predicts that these vehicles will "move, communicate and learn" using artificial intelligence.

Now with the financial backing of tech giant Baidu and automaker Geely, JiDU will help make Li's vision and make it a reality as its looks to establish itself as one of the world's most technologically advanced electric car companies.

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