Chinese self-driving startup WeRide is partnering with Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) to bring autonomous vehicles (AV) onto ride-hailing platform Ontime. It is part of a joint push toward the commercial deployment of robotaxi services, the two companies said on Thursday.

Why it matters: WeRide’s expanded partnership with automaker GAC is the latest example of the startup branching out to work with more companies as it develops self-driving vehicles and related services.  

Details: WeRide is working with GAC to integrate its autonomous driving system into the latter’s Aion S electric sedans and make them available for customers of Ontime, a ride-hailing subsidiary of the auto major, according to a joint statement issued Thursday (in Chinese).  

  • The companies said they have been testing AVs equipped with WeRide’s latest sensor hardware on public roads in restricted areas of the southern city of Guangzhou. The goal is to offer a robotaxi pilot service to Ontime users in 2022.
  • WeRide and GAC will work together to develop purpose-built new L4 self-driving vehicles. The current robotaxi model, based on the Aion S, is still a retrofitted version, a WeRide spokesperson said when contacted by TechNode on Thursday.

Context: Guangzhou-headquartered WeRide has been working since 2018 with GAC, which is Toyota’s and Honda’s Chinese manufacturing partner, to retrofit its software and sensors into GAC’s vehicles such as the Trumpchi GE3 crossover.

  • The four-year-old startup launched its geo-fenced robotaxi pilot service to the public using a fleet of Nissan cars on the outskirts of Guangzhou in November 2019. Its fleet of 300 AVs has driven more than 7 million kilometers (nearly 4.4 million miles) as of writing. For comparison, Google’s self-driving subsidiary Waymo said early last year that its vehicles had logged more than 20 million miles since its inception in 2009, Reuters reported.
  • GAC first launched its ride-hailing service Ontime in partnership with Tencent in Guangzhou in June 2019, later expanding to Shenzhen. It currently handles more than 300,000 rides a month.
  • Rival T3, backed by three local automakers, is racing for market share and has completed over 1.2 million trips monthly. Didi remains the dominant player, however, with monthly orders of 20 million in August, Chinese media reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

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