SenseTime Adds To Series A Round In Chinese Self-Driving Start-Up WeRide.ai

WeRide.ai, a Chinese Level 4 autonomous driving solutions supplier, has received additional investment in its series A round. The new investors include Hong Kong-based artificial intelligence (AI) unicorn SenseTime, and ABC International Holdings, an investment banking unit of the Agricultural Bank of China, according to a January 4 announcement.

The round, worth tens of millions of dollars, adds to a series A round announced in November 2018. That round, with financial details undisclosed by the company, was led by Alliance Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, a Franco-Japanese strategic partnership between the Paris-based automobile manufacturer Renault and Japanese companies Nissan and Mitsubishi

Other participants in the series A round included Qiming Venture Capital, Hanfor Capital, Atop Capital, Johnson Electric, Xiaopeng He, Idinvest Partners, and OceanIQ Capital.

Founded by former chief scientist of Baidu’s autonomous driving unit Tony Han, WeRide.ai was rebranded from Jingchi.ai in October. The Guangzhou-based autonomous driving company focuses on commercial deployment of L4 self-driving technology.

WeRide.ai plans to deploy a fleet of 500 autonomous vehicles in 2019, to accumulate 5 million kilometers of actual autonomous driving mileage, and conduct operation and commercialization trials in Guangzhou and Anqing with key partners.

WeRide.ai’s autonomous vehicles have accumulated a total mileage of more than 70,000 kilometers, from its inception in China to late October last year when it raised a series A round.

The company faces increasing challengers in the autonomous vehicles sector, not only from Chinese internet and tech titans, like Alibaba Group Holding, Baidu Inc. and Tencent Holdings, but also from emerging start-ups, Pony.ai and Roadstar.ai.

Pony.ai has just raised US$214 million in a series A funding in July last year, while Roadstar.ai completed a US$128 million series A funding round in May last year.

Last year, the three giants — Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba, acquired licenses for autonomous driving tests and completed autonomous driving road tests in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, aiming to take their AI and self-driving technology to foreign markets.