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WeRide taps world mkt for driverless tech

Autonomous driving company eyes Europe, wider Asia, Africa, Americas

By CHENG YU | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-22 09:15

Visitors check out WeRide's Robobus at the China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in April 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

Autonomous driving company WeRide said it is expanding its global footprint, following the approval of autonomous driving permits in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates last year.

Earlier this month, the company, based in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong province, announced the launch of its latest driverless road sweeper SI, saying the product had received an order worth nearly $10 million on the very first day of launch.

The company also disclosed that the product had been sold in overseas markets.

"As Singapore serves as WeRide's starting point into the Southeast Asian market, WeRide is also looking to expand to developed economies with advanced information infrastructure and sound transportation, such as Europe, Japan and South Korea," said Tony Han Xu, founder and CEO of WeRide, in an interview.

"We are also looking to explore markets that are potentially lucrative, including Argentina, Brazil and other South American economies. We've already started in the Middle East and are considering North African markets, including Morocco, as it is close to the Middle East," Han said.

WeRide, founded in 2017, is one of the leaders in Level 4 autonomous driving technology. The company mainly offers solutions for autonomous taxis, minibuses, freight vehicles, sanitation vehicles and advanced intelligent driving.

In December, WeRide officially announced that it had successfully obtained the M1 license and T1 license from the Land Transport Authority of Singapore. M1 refers to a milestone testing regime level 1 license for autonomous vehicles on public roads, while T1 refers to T1 assessment license for autonomous vehicles on public paths.

With these two licenses, WeRide's robobus will be able to conduct tests on a larger scale on public roads in Singapore, covering important areas such as One North and National University of Singapore.

This followed WeRide's achievement five months ago when it obtained a self-driving license for testing various vehicles, including robotaxis, on open roads in the UAE. This was the first such license for WeRide globally.

Chinese autonomous driving companies have achieved significant momentum in terms of self-driving technologies and commercialization. They are increasingly recognized by enterprises and governments the world over for their overall capacity to make self-driving on roads a reality.

"From a global perspective, Chinese autonomous driving companies have demonstrated strong technological innovation capabilities and can cope with various driving scenarios in different climates, environments and urban roads," said Regan Luo, director of business development for WeRide's Middle East and North Africa markets.

In the UAE, for instance, high temperatures easily lead to the failure of electronic components in self-driving cars. In response to this challenge, WeRide quickly developed a thermal management system that can effectively perform heat recovery and cold emission management, Luo said.

Luo added that WeRide is one of the first global autonomous driving firms to launch robotaxis in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE.

By the beginning of this year, the company had conducted research, testing and operations in over 26 cities globally. It has become the only tech company in the world to simultaneously hold autonomous driving permits in China, the United States, the UAE and Singapore.

For years, carmakers around the world, especially in the US and Europe, have promised a world of self-driving vehicles — it increasingly appears that China will likely make it happen.

According to a report from global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co, China will become the world's largest market for autonomous vehicles, with revenue from such vehicles and mobility services expected to exceed $500 billion by 2030.

It is predicted that by 2030, total sales of autonomous vehicles are expected to hit $230 billion and autonomous vehicle-based services will generate around $260 billion in sales.

More than 15,000 kilometers of testing roads for intelligent connected vehicles, most being self-driving cars, had been opened nationwide by mid-September, with a total road-testing mileage of over 70 million km, latest data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology showed.

Guo Shougang, an official at the MIIT, said at a recent news conference: "China's intelligent connected vehicles have achieved positive results in terms of industrial scale, key technologies and demonstration applications.

"In particular, a batch of key technologies, including the new generation of electronic and electrical architecture, car operating systems and high-power computing chips, has been applied on a large scale in vehicles."

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