Autonomous Driving Startup WeRide Reaches a $3.3 Billion Valuation With a New $310 Million Series C Funding Round
【Summary】China-based autonomous driving startup WeRide has raised another $310 million at a $3.3 billion valuation, its second major funding round this year. WeRide also announced it was deepening its partnership with Japan's Nissan Motor Co to develop level-4 autonomous driving technology for its vehicles in China.
China-based autonomous driving startup WeRide has raised another $310 million at a $3.3 billion valuation, its second major funding round this year. The company announced a previous $310 million funding round in January, which now totals over $600 million in new funding this year.
Investors for the latest funding round include Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and China Structural Reform Fund, WeRide said in a statement.
WeRide also announced it was deepening its partnership with Japan's Nissan Motor Co to develop level-4 autonomous driving technology for vehicles in China. Level-4 autonomous systems are those which require no human supervision.
"As China stands at the forefront of helping define the future of mobility, we are delighted to partner with WeRide to bring even more innovative technologies and services to enrich people's lives in China," said Ashwani Gupta, Chief Operating Officer of Nissan.
WeRide's CEO and co-founder Tony Han previously served as Chief Scientist of Baidu's autonomous driving unit in China where he led the perception, simulation, hardware, and sensing teams. His expertise is in AI, computer vision and machine learning.
WeRide's autonomous driving system is powered by the NVIDIA DRIVE AGX Pegasus platform, one of the world's most powerful processors for self-driving vehicles. It supports a 360-degree sensor suite at the top of the vehicle fusing lidar, radar and camera data. A front facing lidar on weRide's vehicles has a range of up to 250 meters.
AI-powered algorithms can plan and execute safe, reliable and human-like driving in complex dynamic environments, according to WeRide. The company's self-driving vehicles are capable of handling complex urban road scenarios in both China and the U.S.
WeRide became the first company to be granted a license in both China and the U.S. to test its self-driving vehicles on public roads.
In April, the company received a permit from the California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test its autonomous vehicles on public roads in San Jose without safety drivers onboard. WeRide was granted a similar permit in China in July 2020 to test its self-driving vehicles.
In Nov. 2019, WeRide launched a robotaxi service in Guangzhou, covering hundreds of square kilometers of roads in the cities of Huangpu District and Guangzhou Development Zone.
As of Nov. 2020, WeRide's fleet of autonomous taxis completed 147,128 customer trips serving more than 60,000 users without any accidents, the company reported.
Automakers around the world are investing billions to develop autonomous driving technology and are frequently turning to tech startups like WeRide for assistance. But the massive investments in autonomous driving technology are also attracting Wall Street investors.
U.S. automaker General Motors acquired a majority stake in San Francisco startup Cruise for $1 billion in Feb 2016 to jump start its own autonomous driving development.
GM's domestic rival Ford Motor Co is working with Pittsburgh-based autonomous driving startup Argo AI on the technology after investing $1 billion in the company in Feb 2017.
Argo AI is also working with German automaker Volkswagen. The automaker closed on its $2.6 billion in Argo AI in June 2020. Both Ford and VW hold an equal stake in the company.
The massive investments in autonomous driving show just how valuable the technology could become in the future. WeRide's $600 million in new investments this year indicate the commercial potential of scaling the technology.
WeRide's team has grown to more than 400 people. Approximately 85% of its employees work in R&D on autonomous driving technologies.
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