WeRide, a Chinese autonomous driving start-up company based in Guangzhou, works with Jiangling Motors (JMC) and delivery company ZTO Express to launch "Robovan", a cargo van equipped with Level 4 autonomous capabilities.
WeRide, valued at around $3.3 billion, is one of China's leading players in the field. With its acquisition of autonomous trucking company MoonX.AI., WeRide is competing against top players Baidu and Pony.ai.
The strategic partnership aims to mass-produce "Robovan" for urban logistics. WeRide provides the autonomous driving system, JMC handles manufacturing, and ZTO deploys the vehicles across its network, which covers 99% of China's cities and countries, according to TechCrunch citing ZTO.
After Robotaxi and Mini Robobus, Robovan is WeRide's third self-driving product. The Nissan-backed company has been testing its vehicles on the streets of Guangzhou since 2019, and the testing of Robobus helped develop Robovan. "We find the boundary between passenger vehicle and urban logistics vehicle is vanishing," according to CNBC citing Tony Han, CEO of WeRide.
Han declined to provide a timeline for the rollout but expects "tens of thousands" of Robovan to be deployed in the future.
The auto-driving sector has been thriving since Chinese local authorities have been rolling out favorable policies. Over 20 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing, have designated areas for testing autonomous technology. Beijing is opening a 10-km expressway road section for robotaxi tests as well, according to China Daily.
However, just like any other automaker, WeRide is also affected by chip shortages as its autonomous driving systems rely heavily on chips and sensors. According to CNBC, citing Tony Han, the chip shortage will not affect the current project with JMC and ZTO but would affect the company if they need to make 10,000 to 50,000 Robovans.