Chinese Autonomous Driving Startup WeRide Allowed to Test Driverless Cars in California

Chinese autonomous driving company WeRide has obtained a permit to test two passenger vehicles on designated public roads in California without human drivers behind the wheel, marking another breakthrough for the startup.

The vehicles are designed to operate on specified streets in the city of San Jose with posted speed limits not exceeding 45 miles per hour, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) said in a press release on Tuesday. The regulator added that testing will be conducted during the week but not in heavy fog or rain.

Guangzhou-based WeRide is the seventh company to receive a driverless testing permit in the state, following Alphabet’s Waymo, Baidu, Alibaba-backed AutoX, General Motors’ majority-owned Cruise and Zoox. Currently, 56 companies have an active permit to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver on board, the state DMV added.

WeRide has been testing autonomous vehicles with safety drivers since 2017, and the company claimed it is now the first startup in the world to hold driverless test permits in both China and the US.

WeRide initiated tests of its fully autonomous vehicles in Guangzhou after obtaining a permit in July 2020. Right now, the company is operating a ride-hailing fleet with safety drivers in the Chinese city after launching the service in November 2019, covering an area of 144 square kilometers in Huangpu District and Guangzhou Development District. In its first year of service, the Robotaxis transported 60,000 passengers along a total of 147,128 trips.

As of April, 2021, WeRide declared its total autonomous mileage has surpassed 4,500,000 kilometers, including driverless testing, autonomous testing and its Robotaxi operation.

Established in 2017, WeRide maintains R&D and operation centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Zhengzhou and Anqing, as well as Silicon Valley.

SEE ALSO: Chinese Auto-Driving Company WeRide Raises $310M in Series B Financing Deal Led by Yutong Group

Between December 2020 and January of this year, the firm raised a total of $310 million in Series B funding backed by Yutong Group, the parent of bus manufacturer Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co Ltd.