WeRide Aims to Provide Paid Driverless Minibus Service in 2021
Guangzhou-based startup WeRide’s driverless minibus will start providing paid service this year, the company said Wednesday.
Nissan-backed WeRide started testing its Mini Robobus service in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou and Nanjing. Currently China doesn’t allow paid service during the testing phase of driverless vehicles.
Tony Han, founder and CEO of WeRide, said Wednesday the Mini Robobus will mainly provide services for the last three to five kilometers of a journey. The operating model may be setting up bus stops in crowded locations or exploring a taxi-like system where users can call for a ride, he said.
Han didn’t disclose how much a ride will cost, but he said the service will need government subsidies to help fund vehicle maintenance.
The Mini Robobus, created by WeRide and its strategic investor and commercial vehicle manufacturer Yutong Group, doesn’t have a steering wheel or pedals and has a capacity to convey as many as eight passengers. The driverless bus uses L4 autonomous driving technologies and is designed for open urban roads.
WeRide signed a strategic partnership with Guangzhou Public Transport Group No. 3 Bus Co. Ltd., a state-owned bus enterprise in Guangzhou. It is also the bus service provider on Guangzhou’s International Bio Island, where the Mini Robobus is being tested.
WeRide received a $200 million investment from Yutong Group in December. The two companies have unveiled plans to jointly accelerate large-scale commercial use of fully autonomous vehicles, including minibuses and city buses.
WeRide is not the first Chinese enterprise to develop unmanned buses. In 2018, Baidu announced mass production of a Level 4 technology-powered autonomous minibus, known as Apolong, which it codeveloped with domestic bus producer King Long. Automated bus startup QCraft is operating a free urban open-road driverless bus project in Suzhou.
Contact reporter Denise Jia (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editor Bob Simison (email@example.com).
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