Chinese startup Pony.ai has commenced testing of its driverless vehicles on public roads he the US state of California. This is a prelude to the full rollout of commercial robotaxi services in the US planned for 2022.
Pony.ai is among the startups that have secured approval for driverless vehicle testing in both China and the United States. The testing has progressed past the stage where there will need to be a human safety driver behind the wheel to a fully autonomous operation. The testing is reportedly carried out daily on public roads in the Fremont and Milpitas area of California. A similar test-run is also carried out in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
According to Techcrunch, Pony.ai has disclosed that it plans to resume a rideshare service that is open to the public in the city Californian of Irvine this summer. The robotaxis won’t be fully autonomous, though, as there will be a human safety driver behind the wheel. The startup aims to fully automate the running of the cars next year. That is if the firm is able to scale the regulatory hurdles that need to be overcome before such services will be allowed on public roads in the US and even China. Pony.ai CEO and co-founder James Peng calls the firm’s plan an “ambitious vision”.
Pony.ai isn’t alone in this goal of achieving fully autonomous robotaxi services. There are several other companies also testing their own models in different US cities, including some Chinese firms – AutoX, Baidu, and WeRide. Other firms also working on driverless rideshare services include Amazon’s Zoox, Cruise, Waymo, and Nuro. There are up to 55 such firms with operational licenses but Nuro is the only firm that has got a deployment permit which makes it possible for the company to roll out driverless car services commercially.
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