“Smart urban logistics” is not just a catchy phrase, but a vision of what cargo transportation will look like in the near future. WeRide, the Chinese autonomous driving company, is exploring this area also, after its successful robotaxi operations, with a brand-new vehicle: the robovan.
In just four years, WeRide has demonstrated an impressive evolution. With operation centers throughout China, as well as in San Jose, in the U.S., the company launched its first robotaxi service in 2019, in Guangzhou. During the first year, WeRide robotaxis have completed almost 150,000 trips, with more than 60,000 passengers.
In addition to the Robotaxi and the Mini Robobus, WeRide is now introducing the first Level 4 autonomous cargo van in China, the Robovan. The company will work with Jiangling Motors (JMC), to design purpose-built models for mass production, which will be equipped with the WeRide autonomous driving (AD) system. A third company, ZTO Express, will acquire and use the Robovan for express delivery services.
WeRide’s ambitious goal with Robovan is to eventually provide uninterrupted logistics services. This autonomous cargo van is supposed to make deliveries faster and more convenient. Based on JMC's battery electric vehicle (BEV) model, the Robovan will be equipped with full-stack software and hardware AD solutions and will operate in coordination with WeRide’s AD fleet management platform.
The technology developed by the Chinese company includes in-house built HD maps that cover thousands of kilometers through various cities, plus real-time localization, thanks to a series of integrated sensors. The result is a Level 4 autonomous vehicle that can drive even through tunnels that are longer than 0.6 miles (1 km), in challenging weather conditions, such as heavy rain. The future cargo van will be able to provide delivery services both day and night, in any kind of weather.
Earlier this year, WeRide was authorized by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to begin testing two autonomous cars with no safety driver, in San Jose. Perhaps it won’t be long until the Robovan will also start circulating on Californian roads.