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Pony.ai gets first robotaxi license in China

The first Chinese company to get a license to operate a fleet of autonomous cars has emerged.

Pony.ai, a startup backed by Toyota, will start a robotaxi service in May in the Nansha district of Guangzhou. The service will take off with 100 self-driving cars and later expand to other parts of the city.

The company says its autonomous cars are available for public riders between 8:30 AM and 10:30 PM. Riders will be charged in alignment with normal taxi fares in the city. Initially, there will be a driver at the wheel to ensure safety, but with time, the cars would arrive empty to pick up the passenger.

Pony.ai got its approval last to operate almost 70 cars in Beijing. However, it had to wait till this year to get an operating license.

“Being China’s first autonomous vehicle company to receive a taxi license is a testament to Pony.ai’s technological strength and ability to operate robotaxi services. We will expand the scale of our services, provide quality travel experiences to the public in Guangzhou, create an industry benchmark for robotaxi services and continue to lead the commercialization of robotaxis and robotrucks,” said James Peng, co-founder and CEO of Pony.ai.

“The inclusion of autonomous vehicles in the unified and standardized management of taxis proves that both government policy and the public are increasingly accepting robotaxis as a form of everyday transportation, recognizing the ride experience and technical stability of Pony.ai’s robotaxi,” said Tiancheng Lou, co-founder and CTO of Pony.ai.

Pony.ai described the process for qualifying for the license. “To qualify for the license, Pony.ai had to pass stringent safety and other multifaceted vehicle qualification tests set forth by national inspection institutions, such as having at least 24 months of AD testing in China and/or other countries, at least 1 million kilometers of testing mileage, at least 200,000 kilometers of AD testing within Guangzhou’s designated test area, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents.”

The company says it has completed more than 700,000 rides since the robotaxi app launched in 2018. Nearly 80 percent of the rides were from repeat customers, and 99 percent left positive ratings.

Pony.ai was founded in 2016 and has partnerships with automakers, including Toyota, FAW Group, GAC Group, etc.

This operating license comes as many startups and automakers are pouring billions of dollars into autonomous driving technology. Tesla has hinted at launching its own robotaxi service soon, using its own cars. The EV company wants Tesla owners to enroll their vehicles in the program when not in use. The cars will be powered by Tesla’s self-driving software.

In China, Pony.ai’s competition includes Momenta and SAIC, both of whom have obtained approval to trial their technologies in the Jiading district of Shanghai. Weride, supported by Nissan, will also start trials soon in Guangzhou. Similarly, AutoX, backed by Alibaba, is already testing its own robotaxis in Shenzhen.

Written by HackerVibes

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