Qcraft, an autonomous vehicle startup backed by several prominent investors, announced on Monday that it had secured a $100 million investment. Investors include YF Capital, a private equity firm founded by Jack Ma, Longzhu Capital, the investment arm of life service app Meituan, and others.

Why it matters: Founded by a group of former engineers at Waymo, a self-driving car company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, the funding round serves as a stamp of approval for the two-year-old company. Chinese tech giants are betting big on Qcraft as they move more seriously into the robocar space.

Details: Qcraft has raised a new $100 million Series A+ led by YF Capital and venture capital firm Genesis Capital. Longzhu Capital, a venture capital fund of Chinese on-demand service giant Meituan, participated in the round. 

  • Currently piloting around 70 robobuses open to the public in five cities around China, the two-year-old company plans to expand its test fleet to include more than 100 vehicles by the end of this year, according to its Monday statement (in Chinese).
  • Qcraft is also exploring new applications in self-driving technology, with plans to launch a ride-hailing service in the eastern city of Suzhou later this year, LatePost reported on Monday, citing the company’s CEO Yu Qian.
  • Qcraft declined to disclose its valuation when contacted by TechNode on Monday.

Context: Self-driving car companies are investing more time and energy in autonomous trucks and buses. The trend is driven by the fact that self-driving trucks and buses tend to have more predictable routes and are easier to manage than self-driving taxis.

  • Baidu earlier this month rolled out a new version of its autonomous minibus Apolong. It started deploying the robobus in partnership with the government of the southern city of Guangzhou. The search giant said it has been operating an undisclosed number of first-generation Apolong buses in 22 domestic cities since mid-2018.
  • Chinese robotaxi unicorn WeRide in December secured $200 million in a funding round from China’s biggest bus maker Yutong. Since January, the company has begun testing its fleet of robobuses in Chinese cities including Guangzhou and Nanjing.
  • Qcraft in early 2020 closed a $24 million seed round from investors including IDG Capital and Vision Plus Capital, an investment firm led by Wu Yongming, an Alibaba co-founder, according to figures from business information platform Crunchbase. ByteDance also reportedly planned to invest $25 million in the company in March, according to Bloomberg.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen