Chinese robotaxi rivals both invest in ride-hailing service OnTime
WeRide and Pony, two of China’s main robotaxi companies, both operate in the city of Guangzhou and in California. Now they have one more thing in common. The rivals each have participated in the billion-yuan ($153m) Series A funding round for OnTime, one of China’s main ride-hailing companies (pictured).
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The interest between ride-hailing and autonomous driving is mutual: for ride-hailing platforms, autonomous driving – which has advanced greatly in China, both in terms of technology and regulations – is a good way to lower cost. For robotaxi companies, ride-hailing is the ideal way for their services to connect with mass demand.
Guangzhou Automobile Group
The funding round was led by Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC), the parent of OnTime and one of the largest automakers in China, and apart from WeRide and Pony also included investors from South Korea, Japan and various Chinese government-affiliated funds.
OnTime was launched in 2019, one of many OEM-related players to challenge China’s erstwhile ride-hailing champ Didi.
Global VaaS platform
WeRide is a natural ally for OnTime: it has received funding from GAC, is building robotaxis with the manufacturer, and has already integrated its systems with OnTime. That makes Pony’s involvement all the more puzzling – unless the thinking is that it’s good for OnTime to be involved with more than one provider, to encourage competition. Pony, which is closely associated with Toyota,
“Robotaxis have to operate through ride-hailing platforms if they want to become a real service, which is why two of the world’s leading autonomous driving companies chose to back OnTime,” says Jiang Hua, CEO of OnTime.
With the money from the funding round, OnTime aims to monetise robotaxis faster and create a Vehicle-as-a-Service platform for the global ride-hailing industry.