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Robotaxi start-up Pony.ai gains taxi licence in China city

CNA – Self-driving tech company Pony.ai, backed by Toyota Motor Corp, yesterday said it has obtained a taxi licence in China, which will allow some of its driverless vehicles to start charging fares.

The company said it was the first autonomous driving company in the country to do so.

The startup said it was awarded the licence to operate 100 driverless vehicles in the Guangzhou city district of Nansha.

Pony.ai last year also won approval to launch paid driverless robotaxi services in Beijing and has since begun offering rides.

In Beijing, however, rides are being offered in a much smaller, industrial zone on a trial basis, a Pony.ai spokesperson said.

According to the company’s statement, in Nansha it will start charging fares in the entire 800 square km of the district with driverless cars. Passengers can hail and pay for rides with Pony.ai’s own app.

Pony.ai will initially deploy those cars with safety drivers but expects to remove them “over the short to intermediate time frame”, it said. The announcement comes at a time when a host of startups are pouring billions of dollars into autonomous technology, aiming to take an early lead in the future of mobility.

Pony.ai has been active in the United States and China, testing its driverless technology on public roads in California’s Fremont and Milpitas, as well as the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Beijing.

The Pony.ai logo is seen on a screen during an event in Beijing. PHOTO: CNA
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