Autonomous vehicle tech startup Pony.ai joins the driverless truck revolution; plans to mass produce robotrucks in China
In April, Chinese self-driving tech startup Pony.ai received a taxi license in China to become the first autonomous driving taxi company in the country. The startup said it was awarded a license to operate 100 driverless vehicles in the Guangzhou city district of Nansha, China. But the 6-year-old startup has a bigger ambition after it disclosed its plan to mass produce robotrucks in China
This week, Pony.ai announced it is working with equipment manufacturing giant Sany Heavy Industry to produce the vehicles. As part of the plan, which is still in preliminary stages, the two companies will work together to produce about 10,000 trucks “within a few years,” according to a news release.
The announcement comes at a time when investors are pouring billions of dollars into tech startups developing autonomous technology aiming to take an early lead in the future of mobility. Pony.ai recently partnered with Toyota to accelerate the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.
With this announcement, Pony.ai now joins TuSimple, a San Diego-based autonomous trucking unicorn startup and the world’s first company to complete more than 550 miles of fully driverless truck driving on public roads without a human driver behind the wheel.
The trucks are expected to come with “Level 4” autonomous driving technology, which would allow full self-driving on highways and urban roads, according to Pony.ai. “L4″ is part of an industry classification system that designates full self-driving under specific conditions. Meanwhile, under current transportation rules in China, robotrucks are not allowed to operate fully autonomously.
Founded in 2016 by James Peng and Tiancheng Lou, the Fremont, California, and Beijing, China-based Pony develops artificial intelligence solutions in the field of robotics. Pony.ai is the leading autonomous driving technology company in China, with a mission to revolutionize the future of transportation by building the safest and most reliable solution for autonomous mobility. Pony.ai has raised roughly $300 million as of April 2019 from renowned investors including Sequoia Capital China, IDG Capital, among others, making it the most valuable autonomous driving startup in China.
Meanwhile, Pony.ai also added that small-scale deliveries are set to begin this year and next, with mass production due to start in 2024. CitingPony.ai said it only has testing permits in Beijing and Guangzhou for autonomous trucks. But the company said it expects to operate L4 trucks in China as regulations develop.