Startup Pony.ai Launches Autonomous Ride-Sharing Pilot in China
Six cars operate on a designated route.
Pony.ai is the latest company to launch a ride-sharing service using self-driving cars. The startup recently launched a ride-sharing pilot on a 1.7-mile route near its Chinese headquarters in Nansha, Guangzhou.
It's a relatively small-scale effort, but impressive considering that Pony.ai is relatively new to the autonomous-driving game. The startup, which has dual headquarters in China and Fremont, California, was founded in 2016, and said it had only tested its self-driving cars on public roads for three months before launching the ride-sharing service.
The current fleet includes four Lincoln MKZ sedans and two GAC Chuanqi crossovers. Pony.ai recently signed an agreement with GAC to collaborate on autonomous-driving tech, so the Chinese automaker's cars will likely make up the bulk of its fleet as it scales up.
Two larger tech companies, Baidu and Shouqi, previously announced plans to team up on an autonomous ride-sharing service in China, but Pony.ai seems to have beaten them to the punch. However, the startup is far from the only company to launch a small-scale autonomous ride-sharing pilot.
NuTonomy began giving rides in self-driving cars in Singapore about two years ago, and it's now working with Lyft on a demonstration project in Boston. Waymo self-driving cars are currently giving rides to members of the public in Arizona, and Nissan will conduct a brief autonomous ride-sharing pilot program in Japan in March.
The goal is to create a robotic version of Uber, but that depends on regulations and the public's willingness to ride in autonomous cars. When it comes to the latter, China may be a better place to start than other countries. A recent study found that Chinese consumers are more willing to trust self-driving cars than their counterparts in both the United States and Germany.