The road towards autonomous and self-driving vehicles is accelerating in the fast lane, and stakeholders in the global auto industry are looking to take a lead in this competitive environment. Alliance Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, has become the lead strategic investor of WeRide.ai (formerly JingChi.ai), China’s leading autonomous driving company, which is focused on Level 4 (L4) self-driving technology, following completion of the company’s Series A funding.
The investment in WeRide.ai is the first investment in China and part of the Alliance Ventures strategy to support entrepreneurs and start-ups at the cutting edge of next-generation automotive technology. As a result of the venture capital support, the alliance says WeRide.ai will become the first Chinese start-up specialising in L4 autonomous driving to receive investment from and form strategic partnership with a global automotive group.
François Dossa, global vice-president (Alliance), Ventures and Open innovation, said: “Autonomous systems are a key priority of the Alliance as we develop new mobility services. Our member companies are committed to introducing such technologies in key markets such as China, so we are delighted to be supporting WeRide.ai as it pioneers such full autonomous systems for the demanding Chinese market-place.”
Tony Han, CEO and co-founder, WeRide.ai, said, “In addition to the financial investment, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi and WeRide.ai will further our relationship through strategic cooperation in specific areas. We truly believe the next stage of autonomous transportation revolution 2.0 has arrived. WeRide.ai will continue leading the technology revolution and provide relevant and meaningful benefits to everyone."
The Chinese company was advised by Morgan Stanley on the latest funding round, and is committed to creating autonomous driving technology for China, which it says will dramatically change people’s views of cars, transportation services and urban construction design.
The latest investment is planned to be used for deploying a fleet of 500 autonomous vehicles in 2019, which it says will accumulate around 5 million kilometres of actual autonomous driving mileage, and conduct operation and commercialisation trials in Guangzhou and Anqing with key partners. Since launching its autonomous trial operations in China, WeRide.ai's autonomous vehicles have currently accumulated a total mileage of more than 60,000 kilometres, and served more than 3,000 passengers worldwide.
The partners say that WeRide.ai, which currently has more than 200 employees worldwide – 70 percent of whom are engineers, is the first autonomous driving company in China to use 5G network for remote control of a driverless vehicle. The company’s goal is to bring autonomous vehicle operations into Chinese cities by 2020 and become the world's first large-scale commercial application of autonomous vehicle technology.