China’s Driverless Car WeRide Launch ‘Robovan’ For Autonomous Deliveries

China’s driverless car start-up WeRide has partnered with a top carmaker and delivery company to launch a self-driving cargo van. The strategic partnership between WeRide, automaker Jiangling Motors (JMC) and delivery firm ZTO Express, aims to commercialize and mass produce the “Robovan” for the urban logistics.

China’s Driverless Car WeRide Launch ‘Robovan’

Nissan-backed WeRide makes autonomous driving systems for various vehicles. Since 2019, it has been testing robotaxis, or autonomous cabs, on the streets of Guangzhou, China where it is headquartered. The company opened the service to members of the public last year in limited areas of the city.

The driverless car company has also been testing a self-driving bus which it calls the Robobus. The testing of these vehicles has helped it develop the Robovan. “We find the boundary between passenger vehicle and urban logistics vehicle is vanishing,” Tony Han, CEO of WeRide. “It’s an autonomous driving vehicle. If you put a seat there it can serve as a robotaxi car. If you put a cabinet there it is really a logistics car.”

“These two applications [robotaxi and logistics] can share a technology and both of them might generate potentially significant amount revenue and profit. Why don’t we do both?” Han said. WeRide will provide the autonomous driving system for the Robovan, JMC will handle manufacturing, while ZTO will deploy the vehicles for their logistics operations.

China’s Driverless Car WeRide Launch ‘Robovan’

Han said the company will likely set up two or three locations to do Robovan tests and improve the performance of the vehicle. Once those pilot projects are completed, the Robovan can be rolled out at a large scale. Han declined to provide a timeline for this but said he expects “tens of thousands” of the vehicles to be deployed in the future.

WeRide is one of China’s autonomous driving start-ups, valued at around $3.3 billion. It competes with companies including Baidu and Pony.ai. It has been expanding quickly and earlier this year acquired an autonomous trucking company called MoonX.AI. MoonX already had a relationship with ZTO Express before the acquisition.

China’s Driverless Car WeRide Launch ‘Robovan’ For Autonomous Deliveries via @MasterMindUpdate
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