Bengaluru, NFAPost: WeRide, China’s leading L4 autonomous driving mobility company, announced the completion of its Series B1 funding with a strategic investment of $200 million from Yutong Group, the largest ever investment in autonomous driving made by a leading Chinese automaker.
WeRide and Yutong Group will join hands to drive the application of autonomous driving technology in minibuses, city buses and others. The two companies will explore diverse and intelligent means of smart mobility to promote the commercial use of fully driverless vehicles at a large scale.
WeRide is now the only autonomous driving company to obtain strategic investment from leading automakers of both commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles (Alliance Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi).
Established in 2017, WeRide is headquartered in Guangzhou, China, and maintains R&D and operation centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Anqing, as well as Silicon Valley in the USA. It employs a highly skilled team and has extensive domestic and international experience in R&D, business models and business operations.
WeRide is a smart mobility company that creates leading L4 autonomous driving technologies in China. It is the first self-driving company to obtain strategic investment from top-tier global automakers, including Alliance Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and Yutong Group, as well as first in China and second in the world to get official permit to test fully driverless cars on open roads.
Since its inception, WeRide has utilised strategic alliances among AI technology companies, car makers and mobility service platforms in order to achieve commercialized autonomous driving. WeRide Robotaxi, a joint venture dedicated to autonomous driving which was founded under these strategic alliances, launched the first ever publicly accessible Robotaxi service in the first-tier Chinese city of Guangzhou in November 2019, covering a domain of 144 square kilometers in Huangpu District and Guangzhou Development District.
In June, 2020, WeRide’s Robotaxi service became available to the public through Amap, a popular ride-hailing mobile app in China, thus entering a more mature market. This made WeRide Robotaxi the first public Robotaxi service jointly provided by an integrated ride-hailing platform and an autonomous driving company.
Yutong Group is China’s leading commercial vehicle manufacturer, specialising in buses, construction machinery and other domains. Yutong’s sales volume of large and medium-sized buses has placed it among the biggest global players in its industry.
WeRide has significant advantage in autonomous driving technologies and Robotaxi operation. The strategic investment will help Yutong Group advance its AI capability and expedite the process to commercialize autonomous driving technology in commercial vehicles, smart mobility and smart city.
Expresing happiness over the funding, WeRide CEO and Co-founder Tony Han says since its inception more than three years ago, WeRide has been a leader in autonomous driving.
“This new round of funding has provided a strong impetus for continuing our innovations, and more importantly, secured us another vital strategic investor. Yutong Group’s strategic investment is a strong testament to WeRide’s robust technology and our constant efforts to expand industry boundaries. We have extended the application of autonomous technology to passenger vehicles and buses,” said Tony Han.
He also said WeRide and Yutong Group will engage in extensive cooperation in multiple key domains, such as R&D, vehicle platforms and mobility services, and will draw on each other’s strengths to create a brand new urban mobility and transportation system.
WeRide and Yutong are joining hands to deliver fully driverless vehicles and explore new options of smart mobility. The two companies have already developed China’s first fully driverless mini Robobus, created for open road operation in cities. This is a front-loaded, mass-produced model with no steering wheel, accelerator or brakes. It is equipped with WeRide’s full stack software and hardware solutions, and is capable of dealing with complex urban traffic conditions safely and efficiently.
The commercialisation of autonomous driving requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders in the industry, and WeRide has been committed to transforming mobility with autonomous driving since its founding. WeRide’s achievements are attributed to its long-term strategic partnerships, which are based on mutual trust and win-win collaboration.
Utilising its strategic alliances with major OEMs and mobility service platforms, WeRide became the first autonomous driving company in China to roll out a publicly accessible Robotaxi service. In its first year of operation, 60,000 users went on a total of 147,128 rides. In July 2020, WeRide obtained China’s first driverless testing permit.
Yutong is also a frontrunner in the field of intelligent connected buses. In 2015, Yutong reached a significant R&D milestone for its first generation of autonomous products, and conducted the world’s first open road trial operation of robobuses in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China. Yutong presented its 5-meter autonomous minibus at the Boao Forum for Asia Conference in March 2019, and in May 2019, it was put into open road trial operation.
In its first attempt to realise the commercial application of autonomous buses on 20 June 2020, Yutong assisted Zhengdong New District in Zhengzhou to introduce a 17.4-kilometer autonomous route. Yutong’s autonomous vehicles have been safely operated for more than 700 days in multiple cities, serving more than 360,000 passengers.
Going forward, WeRide will, with the support of Yutong Group and other investors, accelerate the deployment of fully driverless Robotaxi, Robobus and other means of autonomous driving to introduce safe, convenient, affordable and comfortable mobility solutions for mankind.
Yutong Group is a large-scale industrial group mainly specialized in the bus business, and it also covers areas of real estate, industrial finance and strategic investment businesses. In 2019, Yutong Group achieved a turnover of 46.05 billion yuan, with a total sale of 62,468 buses, construction machinery, and special vehicles. It has been ranked among the top 500 Chinese companies for 17 consecutive years.
Yutong Bus, the core business of Yutong Group, is a leading enterprise in China’s bus industry as well as the first listed company in the industry. The company specialized in the R&D, manufacturing and sales of bus products, serving various segments in mobility market including passenger buses for public transportation, highway transportation, tourist transportation, group commuting, school buses, etc.
In 2019, 58,688 buses were sold with an operating income of 30.4 billion yuan. Yutong Bus boasts a market share of over 37% in China and has exported a total of over 70,000 units, becoming one of the world’s major bus and coach suppliers.