Pony.ai has been awarded a permit by Beijing city authorities to offer driverless service in southeastern Beijing. (Baidu also received a permit to offer driverless rides to passengers in the same area.)
Pony.ai has had a permit to driverless test since October 2021 but not with the general public in the car. To ensure safety during this pilot program, a Pony.ai safety supervisor will sit in the front passenger seat.
This new program, which is free to the rider, is in addition to an existing test program in which Pony.ai can offer fee-charging robotaxi service to the general public that retains a safety driver behind the wheel monitoring the ride.
Earlier this month, Pony.ai became the first autonomous driving (AD) company to obtain a taxi license in China. Pony.ai was awarded a permit to operate 100 autonomous vehicles as traditional taxis in Nansha, Guangzhou. (Earlier post.)
Pony.ai is now approved to conduct public facing driverless robotaxi rides in a 60 square kilometer (23.1 square mile) area in a Pilot Zone in Yizhuang, Beijing—triple the operating area from the previous driverless 20 square kilometer testing area. Approximately 300,000 residents in the area can now hail a driverless Pony.ai robotaxi using the PonyPilot+ app from 9am to 5pm. Hundreds of pick-up and drop-off locations include public facilities such as subway stations, parks, and stadiums, alongside central business centers and residential areas.
To obtain this driverless permit, Pony.ai passed stringent safety test qualifications and criteria, including: driverless navigation of unprotected left-turns, temporary construction zones, smog, heavy rain and snow conditions, drivered mileage, and the number of orders received.
As of April 2022, Pony.ai’s autonomous vehicles have driven more than 11 million real-world kilometers (6.8 million miles) globally, including more than 200,000 (124,000 miles) driverless kilometers.