Autonomous driving company Pony.ai announced on Sunday that it was awarded a permit to operate 100 autonomous vehicles as traditional taxis in Nansha, Guangzhou, making it the first and only autonomous driving company to obtain a taxi license in China.
In May, Pony.ai will start charging fares in the 800 square kilometer radius of Nansha with a fleet of 100 robotaxis. The company intends to gradually expand the scale and scope of its service to other areas of Guangzhou over time.
Passengers can hail rides and pay for the service through the PonyPilot+ App. The robotaxis will operate in both daytime and nighttime with service hours from 8:30 to 22:30 and with fares based on the standard taxi pricing in Guangzhou. While the Pony.ai robotaxi currently retains a safety driver, the company expects to remove the driver as the service matures.
This issuance of a certificate signals the Guangzhou government’s formal implementation of autonomous driving mobility services similar to traditional taxi and ride-hailing platforms.
To qualify for the license, Pony.ai had to pass stringent safety standards and other multifaceted vehicle qualification tests set forth by national inspection institutions. Tests included having at least 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, at least 1 million kilometers of testing mileage, at least 200,000 kilometers of autonomous driving testing within Guangzhou’s designated test area, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents.
As of mid-April 2022, Pony.ai’s Robotaxi service has completed more than 700,000 orders, with nearly 80% repeat users and 99% of the passengers giving positive comments after completing their trips. Its service satisfaction rating reached 4.9 on a 5-point scale in customer surveys.