SoftBank invests $5 billion into Chinese ride-sharing company Didi ChuxingMay 19, 2017
by Frank Tobe
May 16, 2017
SoftBank, the giant telecom company, is venturing out into the world of robotics and transportation services. DealStreet Asia said that SoftBank is trying to transform itself into the ‘Berkshire Hathaway of the tech industry’ with the recent launch of a $100 billion technology fund.
First SoftBank bought Aldebaran, the maker of the Nao and Romeo robots, and redirected them to produce the Pepper robot which has been sold in the thousands to businesses as a guide, information source and order taker, then bigger partnerships with Foxconn and Alibaba to manufacture and market Pepper and other consumer products, and most recently to establishing the $100 billion technology fund.
Recognizing that the telecom services market has matured, SoftBank is putting their money where they can to participate in the new worlds of robotics and transportation as a service. $5 billion in Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-sharing company, is a perfect example.
Didi, which already serves more than 400 million users across China, provides services including taxi hailing, private car-hailing, Hitch (social ride-sharing), DiDi Chauffeur, DiDi Bus, DiDi Test Drive, DiDi Car Rental and DiDi Enterprise Solutions to users in China via a smartphone application.
Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba are big investors — even Apple invested $1 billion.
The transformation of the auto industry into one focused on providing transportation services is a moving target with much news, talent movement, investment and widely-varying forecasts. But all signs show that it is booming and growing.
For more information on this subject, read the views of Chris Urmson, previous CTO of Google’s self-driving car group, in my article entitled: Transportation as a Service: a look ahead.