China’s WeRide makes first acquisition – an autonomous truck firm

WeRide robots drive through the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. The start-up started testing robotic taxis in the city in 2019.

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GUANGZHOU, China – Chinese driverless car startup WeRide has made its first acquisition, an autonomous trucking company, to commercialize self-driving technology.

The Guangzhou-based company bought MoonX.AI for an undisclosed amount, it said Tuesday.

Qingxiong Yang, founder and CEO of MoonX.AI, will become Vice President of WeRide and Dean of the company’s research institute. More than 50 engineers from MoonX.AI will join WeRide.

The acquisition of WeRide underscores the rapid push to commercialize driverless technology in China as competition intensifies. The company’s competitors include other startups like Pony.ai and AutoX, both based in southern China, as well as tech giant Baidu.

Prior to MoonX.AI, Yang worked for the autonomous driving department of the highly competitive ride-hailing service Didi. WeRide hopes to strengthen its team of experts with the takeover.

“MoonX has a team of talented engineers with extensive experience developing and commercializing autonomous driving technologies,” Tony Han, CEO of WeRide, told CNBC. “The acquisition of MoonX enables us to build an even stronger team and attract the best talent in the industry.”

WeRide will also expand its presence in China and open a new office in the Shenzhen tech hub.

The acquisition and expansion also comes as part of a financing round in May that valued WeRide at $ 3.3 billion.

WeRide indicates new products

WeRide focuses on developing autonomous driving systems that it can sell to automobile manufacturers.

The company’s biggest foray, however, is in what it calls mobility services, which includes autonomous taxis or robotic taxis and its self-driving bus. The company launched a robot taxi service in Guangzhou in 2019 and opened it to the public last year. WeRide is also testing an autonomous bus.

WeRide has completed 5.5 million test kilometers for autonomous driving with its robotic taxis and robobus.

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Although MoonX is an autonomous freight forwarding company, WeRide has not confirmed whether it will expand into this industry.

However, Han said the company “is actively working with partners from various industries to expand our capabilities.”

He also hinted at a new product.

“MoonX’s expertise will help WeRide develop another groundbreaking AD (autonomous driving) product,” said Han.

WeRide declined to comment when asked for further details.

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