Pony.ai has become the first autonomous driving (AD) company to obtain a taxi license in China.
The license allows the autonomous vehicle start-up to operate a fleet 100 self-driving vehicles as taxis in Nansha, Guangzhou.
Pony.ai plans to begin charging fares throughout Nansha’s entire 800 square kilometres in May, with the goal of gradually expanding the volume and scope of service to other areas of Guangzhou.
Unlike similar licenses awarded in San Francisco, the robotaxis will run during the day and at night from 8:30am to 10:30pm. Fares will be based on Guangzhou taxi rates.
The license still requires a safety driver to be present in the Pony.ai robotaxi, however the company plans to remove the driver in the near future.
In a press release announcing the achievement, the company shared some details around the rigorous testing they had to go through to be awarded the license.
“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 AD testing in China and/or other countries, at least 1 million kilometers of testing mileage, at least 200,000 kilometers of AD testing within Guangzhou’s designated test area, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents.”
Founded in 2016, Pony.ai was recently valued at $8.5 billion after the completion of a Series D funding round last month.
The company used to have a driverless testing permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), but that was revoked after a single-vehicle crash last year.