Chinese robotaxi rivals Pony & WeRide bond over $153M investment in smaller Tencent-backed competitor OnTime

OnTime robotaxis
Image credits: OnTime Mobility

OnTime, the ride-hailing platform operating under Chinese automobile conglomerate GAC Group has recently concluded its Series A which raised ¥1B ($153M). Interestingly, this investment goes down as the first financing of a Chinese-based intelligent networked travel company in 2022. The startup is the intelligent networked travel platform supporting the world-class automobile industry cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

The funding round, led by GAC Group also saw industry foes Pony.ai and WeRide.ai collaborate which adds mystery while offering a clue as to how the sector is shaping up. Other participants in this round included SPARX, Guangzhou Industrial Investment Group, Ruisheng Asia, Lingnan Business Travel Group and Industrial Control Capital, just to mention a few.

OnTime will continue to deepen the strategic layout of its “dual-axis drive”, accelerate the commercialisation of its robotaxi, and build a VaaS (Vehicle as a Service) platform which links the entire industry. The aim is to make gradual steps to becoming a global leader in autonomous driving operation tech.

Gearing up for growth

The startup, which was jointly invested in and established by GAC Group and other partners in June 2019 is deeply rooted in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. It currently offers its services in Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Dongguan in Southern China with its user penetration rate in these core cities of the Greater Bay Area exceeding 30%.

With the new funding, OnTime aims at building a fleet of over 200 robotaxis to test later this year. Additionally, the startup aims to expand its fleet of connected vehicle-to-everything (V2X) cars to more than 1,000 and upgrade its autonomous driving system that covers taxi operations, vehicle maintenance and data management.

On top of this, the one-stop super service platform created by OnTime has been officially put into operation in Guangzhou. This will play a role in anchoring the future of autonomous driving operation scenarios as well as exploring automatic road maintenance of unmanned vehicles.

Working with GAC, WeRide.ai and Pony.ai

OnTime works with WeRide which is the world’s leading level 4 autonomous driving tech firm. The company has taken the lead in launching autonomous driving operations in 15 cities around the world, as well as in testing, pioneering autonomous driving products and commercialization. WeRide and OnTime have already integrated their systems and together demonstrated their tech & offered trial rides to the public at Guangzhou Auto Show last year. WeRide has long been an ally of GAC which infused it with an undisclosed amount of capital last December. The duo has since been working to build a fleet of tens of thousands of robotaxis with GAC supplying vehicles compatible with WeRide’s driving tech.

WeRide and GAC have seemingly close ties which make Pony’s involvement in OnTime’s new funding round all the more intriguing. For GAC it seems a good idea to have more than a single autonomous solution provider to encourage competition. Pony, is backed by the Japanese auto giant Toyota.

“In the past, the industry focused on improving system algorithm capabilities and bicycle hardware levels, but with the development of technology, the focus has shifted to autonomous driving operation technology.” Jiang Hua, the CEO of OnTime commented sighting that Robotaxi will truly become a service which must be operated through the travel platform.

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