Update: Adjusted the headline to be more accurate.
Pony.ai has received a license to operate 100 Robotaxis as traditional cabs in Nansha district, Guangzhou city, Guangdong province.
(Image credit: Pony.ai)
Pony.ai, a Chinese self-driving startup backed by Toyota Motor and NIO Capital, announced today that it has become the first and only self-driving company to receive a taxi license in China.
Pony.ai received a license to operate 100 Robotaxis as traditional cabs in Nansha district, Guangzhou city, in south China's Guangdong province, according to the company.
In May, Pony.ai will start charging with these Robotaxis throughout the 800-square-kilometer area of Nansha and intends to gradually expand the scale and scope of the service to other areas of Guangzhou, the company said.
The Robotaxis will operate during the day and night, with service hours from 8:30 to 22:30, and fares based on standard cab pricing in Guangzhou. Passengers can hail and pay for the service through the PonyPilot+ app.
Pony.ai's Robotaxi currently retains a safety driver, but the company expects to eliminate that driver in the short to medium term.
This marks the official implementation of a self-driving mobility service similar to the traditional cab and ride-hailing platforms by the Guangzhou municipal government.
Pony.ai received a Robotaxi fee-charging permit in Beijing in November 2021, and the latest development made it the only company in two of China's top-tier cities to be approved for a self-driving commercial service.
Pony.ai currently has self-driving vehicles testing and operating in all four Tier 1 cities in China and California.
With the successful commercialization in Beijing and Guangzhou, Pony.ai plans to expand its commercialized Robotaxi footprint to two other Tier 1 cities in China next year and to additional cities ahead of Pony.ai's planned large-scale commercialization beginning in 2024/2025.
In order to obtain a license, Pony.ai must pass tests specified by national inspection agencies, such as at least 24 months of self-driving tests in China or other countries, at least 1 million kilometers of testing, at least 200,000 kilometers of self-driving tests in a designated test area in Guangzhou, and not be involved in any active liability traffic accidents.
Pony.ai launched Pony.ai's Robotaxi app in December 2018, and as of mid-April 2022, its Robotaxi service had completed more than 700,000 orders, it said.
Founded in late 2016, Pony.ai has set up R&D centers in Silicon Valley, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, and is running Robotaxi operations locally.
In late 2019, NIO Capital, said it invested in Pony.ai when it announced the completion of a more than $200 million fundraising for an undisclosed amount.
In February 2020, Pony.ai announced it had raised $400 million from Toyota.
On February 8 of last year, Pony.ai announced the closing of a Series C funding round totaling $367 million.
On March 7 of this year, Pony.ai announced that it closed the first delivery of its Series D funding round, bringing the valuation to $8.5 billion, an increase of about 65 percent from the previous round.