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China’s WeRide Accelerates Global Autonomous Expansion with Key Licenses in Singapore

China’s autonomous vehicle pioneers, having established dominance in their home market through years of aggressive expansion, are now shifting their focus to global outreach. WeRide, a key player in this trend, has recently embarked on a licensing spree to facilitate the testing of its autonomous vehicles abroad.

WeRide disclosed on Monday that it has secured two licenses, M1 and T1, from Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA). These licenses will permit WeRide’s robobuses to undergo extensive testing on public roads, including designated areas like the One North tech cluster and the National University of Singapore.

This announcement follows WeRide’s achievement five months ago when it obtained a self-driving license for testing various vehicles, including robotaxis, on open roads in the United Arab Emirates. The company, known for its significant presence in the U.S. and China, has been strategically diversifying its autonomous vehicle efforts.

In contrast to the initial emphasis on Level 4 robotaxis, WeRide, along with other Chinese autonomous vehicle companies, is now redirecting its focus to more commercial applications. For instance, it is investing in autonomous buses designed to operate at lower speeds, follow fixed routes, and encounter less unpredictable traffic conditions. This shift aligns with a broader industry trend where companies like Deeproute are forming closer partnerships with car manufacturers.

Singapore, with its densely populated urban landscape and an aging workforce, began exploring autonomous vehicles in 2014 to address land and manpower limitations. The city-state has progressed through the initial phase of controlled testing environments, or “test beds,” and is now gearing up for the second phase. This new stage will allow autonomous vehicles for passenger and utility purposes to operate in selected areas, attracting global players like WeRide and Motional, the Aptiv-Hyundai joint venture.

WeRide’s success in obtaining licenses in Singapore reflects meticulous preparation involving extensive engagement with regulators and business partners. With a notable investor lineup contributing over $1.4 billion, including support from Singapore’s major public transport operator SMRT and local investment firm K3 Ventures, WeRide has solidified its presence in the Southeast Asian market.

On the business front, WeRide has inked strategic cooperation agreements with key players such as Woodlands Transport Services and EZ Buzz. The company’s expansion into Singapore has not gone unnoticed, drawing attention from political figures, including a ride taken by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a WeRide robotaxi during his visit to China.

As one of China’s most well-funded autonomous vehicle companies, WeRide, valued at $5.1 billion after a Series D extension round last year, confidentially filed for a U.S. public listing in March, marking its ambition to further assert its influence on the global stage.

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