China- and US-based autonomous driving technology company Pony.ai has been awarded a permit to operate 100 autonomous vehicles as traditional fee-charging taxis in Nansha, Guangzhou, making it the first autonomous driving company to obtain a taxi license in China.
From May, Pony.ai will operate commercial services across the 800 square kilometres of Nansha and intends to gradually expand the scale and scope to other areas of Guangzhou. Passengers can hail rides and pay for the service through the PonyPilot+ App with fares based on local standard taxi pricing. While the service will initially operate with a safety driver, the company expects to remove the driver in the near future.
In qualifying for the license, Pony.ai had to achieve various qualification criteria set by national inspection institutions including a minimum of 24 months of autonomous driving and a million kilometres travelled, with at least 200,000 km within the proposed operational area, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents.
Pony.ai says the license award signals the Guangzhou government’s formal implementation of autonomous mobility services alongside traditional taxi and ride-hailing platforms. “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 and create an industry benchmark for robotaxi services and continue to lead the commercialisation of robotaxis and robotrucks,” said James Peng, co-founder and CEO of Pony.ai.
“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’s has been running trial robotaxi services in Beijing and Guangzhou since December 2018. As of mid-April 2022, it had completed more than 700,000 trips, with nearly 80% repeat users and 99% of the passengers giving positive comments and a service satisfaction rating of 4.9 on a 5-point scale.