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China has issued Baidu and Pony.ai with permits to provide driverless ride-hailing services to the public on open roads in Beijing. This regulatory approval marks a significant milestone for the autonomous ride-hailing industry in China, indicating a regulatory openness to taking a further step toward a fully driverless mobility future.
These permits were issued by the head office of the Beijing High-level Automated Driving Demonstration Area (BJHAD).
Baidu will offer ten licensed autonomous vehicles transporting passengers in a designated area of 60 square kilometres in Beijing.
In September 2020, Baidu became the first company in Beijing to offer autonomous ride-hailing services. Starting in November of last year, Baidu has been charging fees for the Apollo Go autonomous services offered to the public under granted commercial permits, though safety operators are required in the driver’s seat.
Pony.ai’s 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.
Tiancheng Lou, co-founder and CTO of Pony.ai., says: “Since the launch of driverless testing, Pony.ai has demonstrated the technical quality of our system by successfully handling a wide range of extreme and complex scenarios. We did this by conducting multiple technical validations and iterations of driverless scenarios, and by improving system redundancy design, remote assistance platform development and fleet operation management.”
Founded in late 2016, Pony.ai has been a pioneer in extending autonomous mobility technologies and services at a rapidly expanding footprint of sites around the world. Pony.ai has formed partnerships with leading OEMs, including Toyota, FAW Group, GAC Group, etc.