WeRide, one of China’s best-funded startups for self-driving technology, has started the New Year with a bang by closing a $310 million series B funding round led by domestic bus maker Yutong Group, continuing a funding frenzy for the industry started in 2020.
The round, consisting of three tranches, was also joined by CMC Capital Partners, CDB Equipment Manufacturing Fund, Hengjian Emerging Industries Fund, Zhuhai Huajin Capital and Tryin Capital, as well as existing investors Qiming Venture Partners, Sinovation Ventures and Kinzon Capital, WeRide said in a statement on Thursday.
The new funding comes as Beijing relaxes its approach to approving road tests and operations for pilotless vehicles amid a drive to build an intelligent transportation system. Earlier this week, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a draft plan allowing eligible autonomous cars to apply for tests on highways in response to growing demand from the industry.
Highways are considered one of the most viable scenarios where self-driving vehicles could be deployed for commercial use due to their less complex road conditions.
In 2019, WeRide launched what it called China’s first “robotaxi” pilot program in the Southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. That program has provided nearly 150,000 autonomous rides for more than 60,000 passengers as of the end of 2020.
As well as driverless taxis, Nissan-backed WeRide has also explored the area of self-driving buses. In December last year, WeRide announced a partnership with Yutong Group to accelerate the large-scale commercial use of fully autonomous mini buses and city buses after receiving a $200 million investment from the bus manufacturer, which is a part of the series B round.
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