Orders in April Doubled Month-on-Month with Utilization Hours per Robotaxi Increasing by 53.5%
(Guangzhou, China, June 18, 2020) Along with the spread of Covid-19, the mobility industry has suffered a drastic downturn in activity. As the next generation of transportation, the Robotaxi service has risen to this extraordinary challenge.
In November 2019, WeRide officially launched China’s first publicly accessible Robotaxi service, covering an area of 144 square kilometers in the Huangpu and Guangzhou Development District in Guangzhou. After an interruption of operations caused by Covid-19, WeRide’s Robotaxi service resumed on March 2nd. In order to protect the health of our riders and staff, we implemented multiple precautionary measures. The following operation report outlines several areas of WeRide’s Robotaxi development: how Robotaxi has fared since its inception, how the service has evolved in response to the pandemic, and the outlook for the development and commercialization of autonomous driving technology.
Ride order, passenger number and ride mileage have all doubled month on month
There has been a drastic drop in ride demand due to the pandemic; Robotaxi’s operating figures declined accordingly. But as the number of new cases declined in April, WeRide was able to gradually deploy more Robotaxis; the fleet’s capacity was adjusted in real-time according to demand. Orders completed, passenger number and ride mileage have all risen significantly, with an average increase doubled from the previous month.
Operational efficiency has swiftly recovered, with utilization hours per Robotaxi increasing by 53.5% in April
In April, WeRide Robotaxi’s operational efficiency improved significantly. Compared with March figures, there is a 53.5% increase in utilization hours per Robotaxi, with the average rate up by 12.1%. (Utilization Rate = ride time for completed orders/Robotaxi total online time)
Meanwhile, Robotaxi’s response efficiency also rose in April. Vehicles were dispatched to riders in just 19.5 seconds after they placed an order, compared to 45.8 seconds in March.
Since WeRide Robotaxi is a service open to the general public, operation has been impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, just as other public transportation operations have suffered. But WeRide has developed a set of targeted measures to restore operational efficiency. In April, the ride completion rate for WeRide’s Robotaxis reached 64.5%, up from 62% in the first month of operation (December 2019).
Fleet capacity, ride scheduling and product power underlying the rising operational efficiency
Since resuming service in March, WeRide has been expanding its Robotaxi fleet capacity and the number of pick-up and drop-off spots. Workflow has been optimized by system upgrades. Marketing campaigns placed Robotaxi in a better position to withstand the pandemic’s impact. WeRide’s success is due to the improvement of its fleet capacity, back-office scheduling efficiency and product capabilities.
Expending fleet capacity and optimizing cruising route for Robotaxis
At the launch of operations, WeRide had a fleet of 20 Robotaxis. Despite the pandemic, WeRide has managed to expand the fleet to 40 vehicles as originally planned. This has improved fleet capacity while ensuring precautions are in place for the technical and operational personnel’s safe resumption of work.
Based on previous operation data and experience, WeRide continues to optimize its fleet management system. This includes the design of cruising routes for the autonomous driving vehicles. Based on a map of where past ride requests were made, the system deploys Robotaxis to cruise in the nearby area, allowing them to arrive more quickly at frequently requested pick up points.
In addition, more pick-up and drop-off spots have been created, providing the public with more convenience and choices for their rides and minimizing passenger’s exposure to public health risks. As of April, more than 100 Robotaxi pick-up and drop-off spots were in operation.
Autonomous driving tests merged in regular Robotaxi services, a hybrid operation mode coping well with varying travel demand
Compared with figures from December 2019, WeRide’s first month of Robotaxi operation, the number of morning and evening peak-hour ride orders accounts for a larger percentage of total orders in March and April 2020. During this period demand for non-essential travel decreased significantly. The morning and evening ride-request peaks become more concentrated. Adjustments have been made to fleet scheduling, deploying more Robotaxis for the peak demand. Some of test runs drives are reserved for off-peak hours after ride demand has been met. This model of combining test-runs and regular operation is made possible through an integrated approach to self-driving technology, product development and workflow. This model makes fleet management more economical, efficient and flexible.
Making Robotaxi service more open and accessible to the public
Between March and April, WeRide Robotaxi’s average daily number of active users (riders who use Robotaxi at least once a day) increased by 56.4%. It is encouraging to see that Robotaxi remains a popular daily ride option even during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, new users of WeRide Go app’s increased by an average rate of 48.4% month-on-month. The daily average number of first-time riders increased by 63.4% month-on-month. As more people register as Robotaxi’s app users, many have become Robotaxi riders and use the service for daily commutes.
As a self-driving taxi service just made available to the general public, WeRide’s Robotaxi has transformed its image from being a novel, if foreign, advanced technology to a reliable, safe ride option during a period when everyone wants to avoid public transport. This is due to consumer’s embrace of autonomous driving ride services and the progress WeRide has made in upgrading its service accessibility and product power.
At the end of March 2020, the WeRide Go app launched a new feature “Credit Reward Center”, incentivizing users to share WeRide’s promotional posters in exchange for credit points which can be redeemed for Robotaxi free-ride gift cards. It helps to further lower the threshold for using the service, offering a safe and reliable travel option for more people during the pandemic. The “Credit Reward Center” will also be a useful tool for user viscosity enhancement and new user recruitment.
In early April, the WeRide Robotaxi service was officially integrated into the Yang Cheng Tong app. It is a useful supplement to WeRide Go (WeRide’s self-developed Robotaxi ride hailing app); Yang Cheng Tong is the primary public transit app for Guangzhou citizens and will help with the popularization of WeRide‘s Robotaxi service.
Redefining Robotaxi service in the post-pandemic era
New to the market and the public, WeRide’s Robotaxi service has been made actively available despite the outbreak. Promising statistics reflect the public’s increasing acceptance of Robotaxi, affording us a glimpse of the potential commercialization of autonomous driving technologies.
WeRide’s CEO Tony Han pointed out: “The pandemic is pushing us to speed up the research and development of unmanned driving technologies. This year will be a time to stabilize autonomous driving. WeRide is determined to steer China’s autonomous driving ride service into the right direction by forging synergies across technology, operations and business model. We will redefine Robotaxi service and user experience in the post-epidemic era.”
WeRide’s Robotaxi development and current operation
WeRide has been at the forefront of autonomous driving mobility service with its leading operation of Robotaxi. In November 2018, China’s first Robotaxi was launched by WeRide. In August 2019, it cofounded WeRide RoboTaxi, China’s first autonomous driving joint venture. Then, at the end of November 2019, WeRide’s Robotaxi service was made available to the general public as China’s first.
In February 2020, WeRide released the first Robotaxi operation report in China. The report shows that in the first month of operation (December 1–31, 2019), WeRide Robotaxi served 4,683 users and completed 8,396 orders, logging a total mileage of 41,140 kilometers with no safety issues incurred. The number of average daily rides was 270.8, with the highest single-day ride count reaching 438 rides.
Comparing WeRide’s autonomous driving road tests in China and the United States
WeRide has a fleet of over 100 unmanned vehicles and has been conducting road tests in both China and the United States. The roads and traffic patterns of Guangzhou, China are more complex than those of the Silicon Valley in the U.S. The road tests of WeRide’s unmanned fleet are 30 times more efficient in Guangzhou than in the Silicon Valley.
WeRide is a smart mobility company in China that creates leading L4 autonomous driving technologies. We have committed ourselves to new mobility services that will be accessible and beneficial to everyone. WeRide is China’s first L4 autonomous driving technology start-up company to obtain strategic investment from a top-tier global automaker Alliance Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi. We employ a highly skilled technology team of more than 300 employees globally, 70% of whom are R&D engineers. Established in 2017, WeRide is headquartered in Guangzhou, China, and maintains R&D and operation centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Anqing, as well as Silicon Valley in the USA. For more information, please visit www.weride.ai.