Chinese autonomous driving startup WeRide is testing a self-driving cargo van that can carry out delivery services. WeRide is partnering with carmaker Jiangling Motor Corporation (JMC) and courier firm ZTO Express.

Why it matters: Since the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese companies are seeing accelerated adoption of autonomous vehicles (AVs) for contactless delivery.

Details: WeRide on Thursday announced that it has been working with JMC, a Chinese manufacturing partner of US automaker Ford, to test a self-driving electric van designed for cargo delivery since the second half of last year. Courier company ZTO will purchase an undisclosed number of the vans to test.

  • ZTO, backed by Alibaba, will help find driving routes for the pilot project, ZTO Vice President Jin Renqun said during an online press conference on Thursday. The courier will also test the van in real-life delivery scenarios. 
  • The company said in a Thursday statement that the van can drive in “all-weather” conditions and on urban roads and highways. The van will also be equipped with Level 4 autonomous capabilities, which means the car can pilot itself without a human driver most of the time. 

Context: Guangzhou-based WeRide began testing self-driving minibuses in its headquarters city in January. It also completed a $310 million Series B, led by Yutong Group, a Chinese electric bus maker.

  • Chinese authorities are laying regulatory grounds to help companies test more self-driving automobiles. Regulators in July released a new regulation (in Chinese) that allows AVs to be tested on selected highways and city roads.
  • Tech giants and automakers have invested heavily in Chinese driverless startups. Inceptio, a robotruck startup last month secured $270 million from investors that included JD Logistics, the delivery arm of online retailer JD. Robot delivery firm Neolix recently closed a fresh funding round, led by Softbank Ventures Asia and CICC Capital.

READ MORE: The Chinese startup bringing robotaxis to the masses

Jill Shen

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