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Chinese Investors Join $200M Funding Round For Autonomous Startup Plus

Chinese Investors Join $200M Funding Round For Autonomous Startup Plus

Self-driving truck technology developer Plus has completed its Series B funding round, pulling in $200 million from returning backers and new investors from China. In total, Plus has raised nearly $400 million.

The new investors include Hong Kong-listed Guotai Junan International, China's leading securities firm, and Wanxiang, a top Chinese automotive components supplier. SAIC, China's largest carmaker; and Full Truck Alliance, the world's largest trucking platform serving more than 10 million truckers and 5 million shippers, also bought in.

Existing investors including Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and GSR Ventures also participated.

"The additional funding and continued support of our investors will help us further scale our commercialization efforts, enabling us to serve fleets in more countries," David Liu, Plus CEO and co-founder, said in a press release Wednesday. Plus will develop a sales and support network to help fleets integrate its system into their daily operations.

In addition to growing operations in the U.S. and China, Plus plans to expand to Europe and parts of Asia. More engineers will be hired, too. 

Plus was the first self-driving system maker to complete a cross-country U.S. commercial freight run using an autonomous truck with Land O'Lakes.

Rolling out the system

Plus announced in December it would sell trucks powered by its automated driving system on FTA, the Google-backed Chinese digital freight-matching platform. 

Chinese truck maker FAW is partnering with Plus. It also has formed a joint venture with FAW to jointly develop China's next generation of commercial vehicles; Plus will be FAW's exclusive provider of autonomous trucking technology.

The Cupertino, California-based Plus plans to begin mass production this year, several years sooner than startups like TuSimple and Aurora. It is working respectively with major U.S. manufacturers Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) and PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR). 

Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is developing autonomous trucks for late this decade with subsidiary Torc Robotics and Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet's Google subsidiary.

Plus claims pre-orders of more than 10,000 autonomous systems.

Plus chooses Ouster lidar

Separately, the company announced Tuesday that it would purchase at least 2,000 digital lidar sensors from startup lidar maker Ouster Inc. to outfit key elements of Plus's automated truck system. Lidar stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances to the Earth.

"Lidar is a critical sensing modality to include in our sensor suite in order to develop the safest automated trucks," said Shawn Kerrigan, Plus chief operating officer and co-founder.  

Contract manufacturer Benchmark Electronics in Thailand makes most of Ouster's systems. It is close to China, where many of the sensors will be needed.

"We see a huge opportunity in automated trucks that is driving significant demand for our sensors today and is growing exponentially in the near future," said Angus Pacala, Ouster co-founder and CEO.

Plus to sell autonomous trucks on Chinese freight-matching platform

Plus partners with Transportation Research Center to test self-driving trucks

Butter in tow, Plus completes cross-country commercial freight run

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


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