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Pony.ai announced that it has acquired a license to operate an autonomous vehicle taxi service in China. The company is gearing up to launch a fee-charging robotaxi service in Guangzhou, China, sometime this year.
The company is continuing its ongoing partnership with Ontime, a ride hailing app developed by GAC Group. Pony.ai will integrate its autonomous driving technology into GAC vehicles, which can be hailed using Ontime’s platform or Pony.ai’s PonyPilot+ app. Pony.ai plans to launch the service with around 100 autonomous vehicles, the max amount allowed under the company’s license.
Pony.ai’s license allows the company to operate its fleet in the entire 800 square kilometers of Nansha, Guangzhou. The company hopes to eventually expand its scope and begin serving communities outside of Nansha. When the service first launches, Pony.ai vehicles will have test drivers, however, the company hopes to remove them as time goes on.
“Our deep cooperation with Ontime is key to our strategy of building the autonomous driving ride-hailing ecosystem. This program with Ontime will start in Nansha, Guangzhou, where we currently operate, with the potential to expand quickly throughout many other regions of China,” James Peng co-founder and CEO of Pony.ai, said. “This collaboration is a perfect example of Pony.ai’s approach to rapid mass commercialization with partners.”
To get the license, Pony.ai underwent 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China, traveling at least 1 million kilometers of testing miles, and doing at least 200,000 kilometers of driving within the Guangzhou area. During the testing period, the company’s cars had no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents.
“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,” Tiancheng Lou, co-founder and CTO of Pony.ai, said.
In November 2021, Pony.ai received a permit to operate robotaxi services in Beijing. So far, Pony.ai has completed over 700,000 rides, with 99% of users giving positive feedback on the rides.
Earlier this year, Pony.ai agreed to issue a recall on some versions of its autonomous driving software following a car accident that occurred in October 2021. The company recalled the now repaired vehicles because they used software associated with the crash.
During the October accident, one of the company’s vehicles hit a street sign on a median during a turn in Fremont, California while in autonomous mode. No one was injured in the incident, but it prompted the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend the company’s driverless testing permit.