Electric vehicle maker Weltmeister Motor recently closed its RMB 3 billion (around $450 million) Series C led by Baidu, which seeks to increase its self-driving advantages in the country’s EV consumption boom.
The investment will be put primarily toward delivering an enhanced driving experience, including the research and development (R & D) of an intelligent cockpit, according to WM Motor founder and CEO Freeman Shen, in a statement sent to TechNode.
WM Motor has raised nearly RMB 23 billion total in all of its fundraising rounds. Along with Baidu, Series C investors include state-led asset management company Taihang Industrial Fund, as well as Shanghai-based venture capital firm Linear Venture.
Baidu has been backing the homegrown EV maker for years, leading an earlier round of funding totaling $1 billion in December 2017. The two companies announced a joint R & D autonomous driving venture at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, after WM Motor joined Baidu’s self-driving open source platform Apollo a year ago.
According to Chinese media, Shen said the partnership will accelerate self-driving capabilities in its electric vehicles. The China-based EV firm plans to ship self-driving car models in 2021 with Level 3 automation, a rating from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for cars that self-drive under certain conditions with full control of safety-critical functions.
Baidu has been upping its efforts in driving technologies that have application potential in public transport. In January the company announced that it would launch 100 self-driving taxis in Changsha, the capital city of central Chinese province Hunan, by year-end. The vehicles will operate on 130 miles of city roads equipped with its V2X (vehicle-to-everything) technology.
Baidu CEO Robin Li stated during the company’s fiscal year 2018 earnings call in February that its autonomous driving platform, Apollo, had been granted a license for driving tests in more than 50 provinces and municipalities in the country. “Apollo has garnered over 135 OEMs, Tier 1 parts suppliers, and other strategic partners to date.”