Self-driving car startup Pony.ai obtains a taxi license in Guangzhou, China

Self-driving car tech startup Pony.ai Inc. has secured a new taxi license in Guangzhou, China, the first robotaxi company to do so.

The permit allows the company to operate 100 self-driving vehicles as traditional taxis in Guangzhou’s Nansha district, a Tier 1 city neighboring the Shenzen technology hub. Pony.ai will begin operating the taxi service, with paid fares, across the 800 square kilometers (497 square miles) of Nansha in May and intends to gradually expand the scale and reach of the service to other areas of Guangzhou over time.

Passengers wishing to arrange rides via the robotaxis can do so through the PonyPilot+ app, with the app also handling payments. The service will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. with fares based on taxi pricing in Guangzhou. The service will initially launch with a security driver, but the company plans to remove the driver in the short to intermediate time.

Pony.ai had to pass rigorous safety tests and other multi-faceted vehicle qualification tests set by national inspection institutions to qualify for the Guangzhou license. These include 24 months of self-driving testing in China and/or other countries, at least one million kilometers of test mileage, at least 200,000 kilometers of self-driving testing in the designated Guangzhou test area, and no involvement in active fault traffic accidents.

The announcement is meant to reinforce Pony.ai’s progress towards commercial autonomy. The company previously received a permit in November to operate a robotaxi service in Beijing and plans to expand its marketed robotaxi footprint to the other two Tier 1 cities in China next year and to other cities by November. start of mass marketing of Pony.ai planned. for 2024/2025.

“The inclusion of autonomous vehicles in the unified and standardized taxi management proves that government policy and the public are increasingly accepting robotaxis as a form of everyday transport, recognizing the driving experience and technical stability of the robotaxi from Pony.ai,” Tiancheng Lou, co-founder and CTO of Pony.ai, said in a statement.

Like many Chinese companies, Pony.ai has had trouble with the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on local companies seeking to do business in the United States. it failed to get assurances from Beijing that it would not become the target of a crackdown on Chinese tech companies.

Unable to go public in the United States, Pony.ai instead sought additional venture capital funding. The amount of new funds raised in March was not disclosed, but was raised at a valuation of $8.5 billion.

Pony.ai investors include Green Pine Capital Partners, CMC Capital, Redpoint Ventures China, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board Teacher Innovation Platform, Fidelity China, 5Y Capital, ClearVue Partners , Eight Roads, Sequoia Capital China, IDG Capital and Toyota.

Photo: Pony.ai

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