Pony.ai, an autonomous driving technology company, claims it has become the “first and only autonomous driving company to obtain a taxi license in China”.
Pony.ai was awarded a permit to operate 100 autonomous vehicles as traditional taxis in Nansha, Guangzhou.
In May, Pony.ai will start charging fares in the entire 800 square kilometers of Nansha with 100 robotaxis and intends to gradually expand the scale and scope of service to other areas of Guangzhou to benefit more residents.
Passengers can hail rides and pay for the service through the PonyPilot+ App.
The robotaxis will operate in both daytime and nighttime with service hours from 8:30 to 22:30 and with fares based on the standard taxi pricing in Guangzhou.
While the Pony.ai robotaxi currently retains a safety driver, the company expects to remove the driver over the short to intermediate time frame.
This signals the Guangzhou government’s formal implementation of autonomous driving mobility services similar to traditional taxi and ride-hailing platforms.
This initiative reinforces Pony.ai’s progress toward commercial autonomy: with the robotaxi fee-charging permit received in Beijing in November 2021, Pony.ai is now the sole company approved for autonomous driving commercialization services in two Tier-1 cities in China.
With successful commercialization in Beijing and Guangzhou, Pony.ai plans to expand its commercialized robotaxi footprint to the other two Tier-1 cities in China next year and to more cities by the start of Pony.ai’s mass commercialization planned for 2024/2025.
Pony.ai currently has autonomous vehicle testing and operations in all four of China’s Tier-1 cities and in California.
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 autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, at least 1 million kilometers of testing mileage, at least 200,000 kilometers of autonomous driving testing within Guangzhou’s designated test area, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents.
Pony.ai claims it is the first and only autonomous driving company to have met all of these requirements and standards.
James Peng, co-founder and CEO of Pony.ai, says: “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.”
Tiancheng Lou, co-founder and CTO of Pony.ai, says: “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.”
From the launch of Pony.ai’s robotaxi app in December 2018 through the commercialization of robotaxi services in both Beijing and Guangzhou, Pony.ai has continuously improved and upgraded all aspects of the consumer experience of robotaxi services.
As of mid-April 2022, Pony.ai’s Robotaxi service has completed more than 700,000 orders, with nearly 80 percent repeat users and 99 percent of the passengers giving positive comments after completing their trips – and a service satisfaction rating reaching 4.9 on a 5-point scale.