WeRide, one of China’s most-funded startups developing autonomous driving capabilities, said on Wednesday that it has raised a $200 million strategic round from Chinese bus maker Yutong.
Mega investments aren’t uncommon at companies like WeRide developing the next-generation level 4 driving standard, which denotes that the car can handle the majority of driving situations independently without human intervention.
WeRide did not disclose its valuation for this round, which is the first tranche of its Series B round, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.
The new funding will see WeRide joining hands with Yutong, a 57-year-old company, to make autonomous driving minibusses and city buses as well as work on R&D, vehicle platforms and mobility services together. The partners have already jointly developed a front-loaded driverless minibus for mass-production. The model, which comes without a steering wheel, accelerator or brakes, is designed for operating in urban open roads, said WeRide
Alliance Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, became WeRide’s strategic investor in 2018 following the completion of the startup’s Series A round, which was partially funded by the Chinese facial recognition giant SenseTime.
Autonomous driving startups in China are racing to showcase their progress, in part to attract funding for their cash-bleeding businesses. Alibaba-backed AutoX, for instance, began deploying driverless cars on the roads in Shenzhen in a bold move. WeRide and its rivals are testing various levels of autonomous driving vehicles in both the United States and major Chinese cities where local policies are supporting the futurist transportation tech.
“Capital’s attitude is shifting and increasingly bullish about autonomous driving and its commercial future following the COVID-19 pandemic [in China]. Many investments are happening in this space because investors don’t want to miss out on any potential leaders in autonomous driving,” the WeRide spokesperson said. “Our Series B round has attracted a lot of interest.”
WeRide’s competitors include Pony.ai in its backyard Guangzhou, AutoX and Deeproute.ai in Shenzhen, Momenta in Suzhou, Baidu in Beijing, to name a few.