Guangzhou-based startup WeRide has acquired 3-year-old Chinese self-driving truck firm MoonX.AI, reflecting its interest in autonomous trucking as an increasing number of companies look for ways to apply their self-driving tech to the long-distance logistics industry.
The deal will see MoonX.AI founder and CEO Yang Qingxiong join WeRide as the company’s vice president and head of research, WeRide said in a statement Tuesday. WeRide will also take on Yang’s team of about 50 algorithm and R&D engineers.
The new role will enable Yang, a computer vision expert who earned his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010, to oversee the R&D and application of WeRide’s autonomous driving technology. Yang will also take the helm of WeRide’s Shenzhen branch.
The acquisition comes at a time when some Chinese robotaxi service providers are coming to the conclusion that trucks, rather than passenger cars, are the low-hanging fruit in the quest to turn self-driving technology into a profitable business. That’s because trucks tend to operate in a less complex driving environments such as on highways.
One example is Pony.ai, which in May obtained a license to conduct autonomous freight operations in the southern Chinese megacity of Guangzhou. The company, which splits its operations between China and the U.S., also runs robotaxi services in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as the cities of Irvine and Fremont in California.
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