Chinese autonomous vehicle start-up WeRide raises $200 million from bus maker

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/23 14:16:29

Big data center of AutoX for driverless cars began operations in Shanghai on April 13. Photo: AutoX

Chinese autonomous vehicle start-up WeRide announced Wednesday that it has received a strategic investment of $200 million from China's major bus maker Yutong Group, the largest investment in domestic autonomous driving sector made by a Chinese automaker.

WeRide and Yutong Group will team up to drive the application of autonomous driving technology in minibuses, city buses and other vehicles as well as explore diverse and intelligent means of smart mobility to promote the commercial use of fully driverless vehicles at a large scale, according to WeRide.

The Guangzhou-based start-up, which is also backed by the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, said the two companies have already developed China's first fully driverless mini Robobus, a front-loaded, mass-produced model with no steering wheel, accelerator or brakes. 

In its first year of operation, 60,000 users went on a total of 147,128 rides on the Robotaxi services launched by WeRide, according to China's first Robotaxi report released by WeRide and Tsinghua University in November.

Robotaxi, also known as a self-driving taxi or a driverless taxi, is an autonomous car with Level 4 or 5 autonomous standard. It is seen as an important first step to build smart transportation and one of the best ways for operators to make money from autonomous driving technologies in the near future.

Chinese autonomous driving firms have been racing towards a robotaxi since the start of this year as the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic triggered more consumer demand. Baidu, Didi Chuxing, WeRide and AutoX have all launched robotaxi services in different cities in China.

AutoX, the Alibaba-backed start-up, said in earlier December that it had rolled out fully driverless robotaxis on public roads in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province. The company said it had become the first player in China to do so, notching an important industry milestone.

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