On Wednesday, LatePost reported that autonomous driving technology company WeRide has recently obtained more than $400 million in a new round of financing, and its valuation after the investment totals $4.4 billion.
The investors were existing shareholder GAC Group, as well as new shareholders Bosch, China Arab Investment Funds and Carlyle Group.
China Arab Investment Funds also invested in the recent D-round financing of Pony.ai. Other investors of Pony.ai were Mubadala Investment Company and China Development Bank. In terms of valuations, Pony.ai and WeRide are the top two robotaxi automated driving companies in China.
Both companies accelerated their funding pace since 2020, with each raising more than $1 billion since then. This demonstrates the enthusiasm of the capital markets for the sector in the previous period. However, these companies now find themselves in a chilly funding environment.
LatePost was told by a source at an investment bank that the fact that large deals are completed despite the current market may stem from the fact that investors “made the decision last year.” An investor made it clear that he would not take a shot at an autopilot company this year without a path for withdrawal.
Changes in the external environment have prompted investors to be cautious for now. Competition between U.S. and China for technology has materially impacted self-driving companies that have a presence in both countries. TuSimple, a self-driving heavy truck company that went public in the U.S. last year, decided to divide its business between the U.S. and China. The Chinese team will now operate independently, with management intact, and will continue to aim for unmanned logistics on highways in the mainline.
Many automated driving companies with a Chinese background, such as Pony.ai, WeRide, AutoX, Baidu Apollo and Didi, all have R&D teams and test vehicles in the U.S.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, as of the end of 2021, WeRide, Pony.ai and AutoX had 14, 38 and 44 test vehicles in the state respectively. A person close to Pony.ai told LatePost that Pony.ai’s U.S. R&D team undertook more complex research projects and addressed mid-to-long term problems.
Each company is working on new businesses as well. Pony.ai released a automated driving heavy duty truck last year. DeepRoute.ai laid out the intracity freight transportation after receiving investment from Alibaba last year. Since 2020, WeRide has successively laid out unmanned minibuses and freight transportation in intracity freight transportation. Its unmanned minibuses have been tested in Guangzhou, Nanjing and Zhengzhou for one year, and have started to operate in Guangzhou this year.