WeRide, the Chinese autonomous vehicle start-up that recently raised $ 310 million, has been granted a license to test driverless vehicles on public roads in San Jose, California. WeRide is the seventh company, after AutoX, Baidu, Cruise, Nuro Waymo and Zoox, to receive a driverless test license.
In the early days of autonomous vehicle development, test permits required human safety drivers behind the wheel. Some 56 companies have an active license to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver. Driverless test permits, in which a human operator is not behind the wheel, have become the next step and a mandatory step for companies wishing to launch a commercial robotaxi or delivery service in the state.
The California DMV, the agency that regulates autonomous vehicle testing in the state, said the license allows WeRide to test two self-driving, driverless vehicles on specific streets in San Jose. WeRide has been licensed to test autonomous vehicles with safe drivers behind the wheel since 2017. WeRide is also limited to how and when to test these vehicles. Driverless vehicles are designed to be used on roads with posted speed limits not exceeding 45 miles per hour. Testing will be carried out during the day Monday through Friday, but will not occur in heavy fog or rain, according to the DMV.
To achieve driverless test status in California, businesses must meet a number of security, registration, and insurance requirements. Any business applying for a driverless license must provide proof of insurance or a deposit equal to $ 5 million, verify that the vehicles are capable of operating without a driver, meet federal motor vehicle safety standards, or be exempt from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and be an SAE Level 4 or 5 vehicle. Test vehicles must be continuously monitored and remote operators trained in the technology.
Driverless test license holders must also report any collision involving a driverless test vehicle to the DMV within 10 days and submit an annual disengagement report.
While the vast majority of WeRide’s operations take place in China, the permit indicates its continued interest in the United States. WeRide, headquartered in Guangzhou, China, has R&D and operations centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Zhengzhou and Anqing, as well as in Silicon Valley. The startup, which was founded in 2017, received a license in February to operate a drive-phone operation in Guangzhou.
The company is one of the most funded autonomous vehicle tech startups in China, with backers such as bus maker Yutong, Chinese facial recognition company SenseTime and Alliance Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm of Renault- Nissan-Mitsubishi. Other investors in WeRide include CMC Capital Partners, CDB Equipment Manufacturing Fund, Hengjian Emerging Industries Fund, Zhuhai Huajin Capital, Flower City Ventures, and Tryin Capital. Qiming Venture Partners, Sinovation Ventures and Kinzon Capital.