Xpeng-backed self-driving startup WeRide has raised $200 million in a round of fresh funding from China’s biggest electric bus maker Yutong, it announced Dec. 23. The two companies also announced the development of a fully automated minibus with no controls.
Why it matters: The deal comes as Chinese automakers are pushing into the country’s autonomous vehicle industry, and as local authorities are allowing AV testing on public roads in bid to catch up in the global battle for tech dominance.
- The central government has reaffirmed a goal to “adopt highly autonomous cars on a massive scale” by 2025 in its finalized blueprint (in Chinese) for intelligent and electric vehicles released late October.
Details: Yutong put $200 million into WeRide in a solo Series B1 investment, according to a joint announcement released Wednesday. Based in the central Henan province, Yutong is China’s biggest medium and large-sized electric bus maker with more than a third market share in its domestic market, followed by BYD and Dongfeng Motors, among others.
- WeRide said that it and Yutong have jointly developed an autonomous minibus, which has no steering wheel, accelerator, or brake, without revealing details.
- The Guangzhou-based company did not disclose its valuation, nor details of other investors involved in its Series B.
Context: WeRide has been testing fully driverless vehicles on open roads in Guangzhou since July. It is the second company in the world to test fully driverless vehicles on open roads, following the US’s Waymo.
- The company in December 2018 closed an undisclosed amount in a Series A from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, along with Chinese artificial intelligence unicorn Sensetime, Xpeng CEO He Xiaopeng, and others.
- WeRide claimed to have offered more than 147,000 rides to 60,000 passengers in a robotaxi pilot program in a 55-square-mile area on the outskirts of the city as of November.
- WeRide peer Pony.ai revealed last month an undisclosed amount of funding from the state-owned FAW Group, which it claimed was the first bet on AV by a Chinese state-owned automaker.