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Less than one month after raising a $200 million Series B1 round of funding, Guangzhou, China-based WeRide raised another $110 million via Series B2 and B3 rounds. This brings the Series B to a total of $310 million for the developer of Level 4 autonomous vehicles. WeRide said it already kicked off its Series C round. WeRide has raised more than $500 million since it was founded in 2017.
WeRide launched a robotaxi service in Guangzhou in November 2019. WeRide claimed this is the first publicly accessible robotaxi service in the city. It covers an area of 144 square kilometers (89.4 sq. mi.) in Huangpu District and Guangzhou Development District. In the service’s first year of operation, 60,000-plus users went on a total of 147,128 rides, according to WeRide.
WeRide and Yutong previously collaborated on China’s first fully driverless Mini Robobus. The front-loaded, mass-produced model doesn’t have a steering wheel, accelerator, or brakes. In its first attempt to realize the commercial application of autonomous buses in June 2020, Yutong assisted Zhengdong New District in Zhengzhou in introducing a 17.4 km (10.8 mi.) autonomous route. Yutong said its buses have been safely operated for more than 700 days in multiple cities, serving more than 360,000 passengers.
Starting on January 15, WeRide will launch trials of its Mini Robobuses on Guangzhou International Bio Island, covering all of its business and commercial districts. WeRide’s robotaxis will also be available on Bio Island.
WeRide has also been testing autonomous vehicles in California. It’s disengagement rate worsened from 2018-2019, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. In 2018 its vehicles averaged a disengagement every 173.5 miles, while there was a disengagement every 151.72 miles in 2019. It should be noted many in the autonomous vehicle industry view miles per disengagement as a flawed statistic.
Other companies working on robotic taxicabs and buses include Argo AI, Aurora, AutoX, Cruise, Motional, Voyage and Waymo, and Yandex.
Yandex has said commercialization of autonomous vehicles requires a concerted effort from many stakeholders. With the support of Yutong Group and other investors, WeRide said it plans to accelerate the deployment of its fully driverless robotaxi, Robobus, and other mobility systems.
Yutong Group is the strategic lead investor on this latest deal. Other investors include CMC Capital Partners, CDB Equipment Manufacturing Fund, Hengjian Emerging Industries Fund, Zhuhai Huajin Capital and Tryin Capital. Qiming Venture Partners, Sinovation Ventures and Kinzon Capital, who were involved in the previous rounds, also participated in the funding.
“CMC has conducted in-depth research on the self-driving sector, and we firmly believe that this technology will be a game changer in the smart mobility market,” said Ruigang Li, founding partner of CMC Capital Partners. “Self-driving technology, like new energy vehicles, will rise to become one of the popular themes of the equity market. With an edge in core technologies and the brilliant performance of WeRide Robotaxi operation, the first of its kind in China, WeRide has made a great impact.”
Georg Stieler, managing director, Asia, at Stieler Technology and Marketing Consultants, recently joined The Robot Report Podcast to give us the inside scoop about China’s robotics industry. The conversation dives into some common misconceptions about China as a robotics producer. Georg also discusses how China is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, why mobile robots for e-commerce have reached a saturation point in China, navigating ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, and much more. You can listen to the podcast below.