Meanwhile its rivals Baidu and AutoX look to Shenzhen and beyond
Chinese driverless car startup WeRide will have its robotaxis available for public use via the Ontime ride-hailing app from next year.
The news comes as WeRide partners with Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAG Group), a major car manufacturer and the operator of the app. The pair plan to offer test rides at this month’s Guangzhou Auto Show, with a full rollout in China expected next year.
Guangzhou set for AV takeover
WeRide is backed by Alliance Ventures, the investment arm of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi.
While it develops its own autonomous vehicles, like the Dongfeng Fengshen E70, it also buys cars from Nissan, Ford, and GAC, to then retrofit them with its AV tech.
The startup launched a public robotaxi service in downtown Guangzhou back in 2019.
At the start of this year, it trialed autonomous minibuses in the city, routed around its business and commercial districts.
To date, WeRide has reportedly raised more than $600m, achieving unicorn status.
In January, it closed a $310m series B funding round, led by Yutong Group, which manufactures commercial vehicles. Investors reportedly value it at around $3.3bn.
Just three weeks prior, WeRide revealed its new Level 4 sensor suite.
Suite 4.0 is one-sixth smaller than the previous version and weighs just shy of 29 pounds.
It includes LiDAR systems, 4D mm-wave imaging radar, and WeRide’s in-house designed camera module for a 360-degree field of view and front detection range up to 300 meters.
Around Baidu in 100 cities and AutoX expansion
In other autonomous vehicle news, WeRide's rival Baidu said it plans on deploying its robotaxis in 100 cities by 2030.
Apollo Go, Baidu’s robotaxi service, plans to serve 65 cities by 2025, the company’s CEO Robin Li said earlier this week in an earnings call.
The Chinese company was the first to launch a commercial autonomous taxi service in Beijing.
Meanwhile, Alibaba-backed AutoX has recently expanded its driverless robotaxi presence in Shenzhen.
Its services now span across 65 square miles – marking the first robotaxi service to cover an entire district in a Chinese megalopolis.