SHANGHAI (Reuters) – the U.S. self-driving truck startup TuSimple said that it has raised $95 million in funding round led by Chinese internet giant Sina Corp, in which the values of the three-year-old company at $1 billion.
The fresh funds the investors of which are also Hong Kong-based investment company Composite Capital, will be used to expand its commercial fleet of 50 trucks in June from 11 at present, it said.
The latest funding round was completed in December and brings TuSimple the total funding to date to $178 million, it added. Other investors in the previous rounds, the US chipmaker Nvidia Corp
“After three years of intense focus to our technical goals, we have further research into the serious work of building a commercial solution,” said Xiaodi Hou, TuSimple founder and chief technology officer.
The California-based company currently makes daily deliveries in the U.S. state of Arizona on highways and streets for 12 customers, and the plans for the expansion of its operations to Texas. The level 4 vehicles, which are able to be fully autonomous in most, but not all conditions.
Silicon Valley companies to the traditional automobile manufacturers have been racing to fully commercial self-driving vehicles on the road and transport experts say that the trucking industry could be among the first users as a result of the relative predictability of the highways in comparison to the busy streets of the city.
German luxury car maker Daimler last month said it is investing 500 million euro ($573 million) in the coming years to develop highly autonomous trucks.
Ride-hailing giant, Uber also bought a self-driving truck business Otto in 2016, but announced last year that it would shutter the unit to focus on the development of autonomous cars.
Reporting Yilei Sun, and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Stephen Coates