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Pony.ai scores taxi license for autonomous vehicles in Guangzhou – TechCrunch

Autonomous vehicle startup Pony.ai has received approval in Guangzhou to operate 100 robotic taxis as traditional taxis. The license, which allows Pony to charge for rides in its autonomous vehicles, marks another step on the road to commercialization of autonomous ride-hail vehicles in China.

WeRide, one of Pony’s competitors in China, has one Partnership service with Guangzhou’s government-sponsored taxi group, Baiyun since 2019, which has given the company an early mover advantage on the road to commercialization. This however is to be told the first time in China has introduced a taxi license for an autonomous ride-sharing fleet, without having to work with a traditional taxi company. The license also subjects Pony’s fleets to the same rules that govern traditional human-powered taxis.

“The incorporation of autonomous vehicles into the unified and standardized management of taxis proves that both government policies and the public are increasingly accepting robotaxis as a form of daily transportation, and acknowledging the driving experience and technical stability of Pony.ai’s Robotaxi,” Tiancheng said Lou , Pony.ai’s co-founder and chief technology officer, in a statement.

Pony, which announced an undisclosed raise last month brought the company’s valuation to $8.5 billionwill begin collecting fares in May in Guangzhou’s Nansha District, an 800-square-kilometer port area in the center of the country country technology-driven Greater Bay Area. Passengers can stop a ride and pay through the PonyPilot+ app between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., with fares based on “standard Guangzhou taxi fares,” according to Pony.

The company didn’t respond to requests for information about what type of vehicles will be included in its fleet, but photos Pony shared with TechCrunch show a Lexus equipped with Pony’s suite of sensors.

Each ride will initially have a human safety driver in the front seat, although Pony has stated its intention to remove the driver “over the short to medium time frame.” That’s an ambitious goal, because no city government in China has officially allowed unmanned robo-taxis to chauffeur passengers around. Even if Pony were able to remove the driver, it’s hard to imagine such a service being allowed to operate in the busy downtown of Guangzhou on short notice.

Pony said it intends to gradually expand the scale and scope of its service to other areas of the city, but didn’t say when.

“To qualify for the license, Pony.ai had to pass rigorous safety and other multi-faceted vehicle qualification tests set by national testing institutes such as: B. at least 24 months [autonomous driving (AD)] Testing in China and/or other countries, at least 1 million kilometers of testing kilometers, at least 200,000 kilometers of AD testing within the designated testing area of ​​Guangzhou, and no involvement in active liability traffic accidents,” the company said in a statement.

In California, where Pony was testing its driverless capabilities, the company recently had to initiate a recall of its autonomous driving software after three accidents in October that resulted in the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspending the company’s operating license.

Guangzhou isn’t the first city where Pony is charging robotic taxis. The company, along with Baidu’s autonomous driving service, received approval in Beijing last November to charge passengers within a small suburban pilot zone.

Pony is also testing autonomous vehicles in Shanghai and Shenzhen, and in Fremont and Irvine, California. The company said it had completed more than 700,000 rides by mid-April, although it’s likely most of those rides were in China.

If commercialization in Guangzhou and Beijing is successful, Pony intends to expand its commercialized robotaxi presence to two more major Chinese cities over the next year, with further expansion planned for 2024 and 2025, the company said. Pony did not respond to requests for further clarification or whether it has applied for a permit to operate in California.

The company had intended last year to go public in New York through a SPAC merger, but those plans were allegedly on hold after the company failed to receive assurances from the Chinese government that it would not be the target of a crackdown on Chinese tech companies.

Pony.ai scores taxi license for autonomous vehicles in Guangzhou – TechCrunch Source link Pony.ai scores taxi license for autonomous vehicles in Guangzhou – TechCrunch

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