Artificial Intelligence: Chinese Autonomous Vehicle Startup Pony To Test In California

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The company is being allowed to test driverless vehicles without human safety drivers on certain streets in three cities.

Pony.ai, the Chinese autonomous mobility startup founded in Fremont, California in late 2016, has been permitted by  California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test its driverless cars without human safety drivers behind the wheel on specified streets in the state’s three cities. (The Star)

Pony.ai is backed by Toyota (TYO: 7203) and the two companies have been working together since 2019 on public autonomous vehicle testing.

Testing in three California cities

The latest permit from the DMV allows Pony to test six vehicles across the cities of Fremont, Alameda County; Milpitas, Santa Clara County; and Irvine, Orange County.

The company has been conducting trials on driverless cars with accompanying drivers since 2017. The expanded testing without the human safety feature will commence in Fremont and Milpitas on weekdays between 10 AM and 3 PM.

However, the DMV has imposed the conditions that the cars can only be tested on roads that have a speed limit of 45 mph or less, and only when the weather is clear with light precipitation.

With this permit, Pony joins the ranks of seven other companies that have California driverless testing namely  AutoX, Baidu, and WeRide, Cruise, Nuro, Waymo, and Zoox.

In November 2019, Pony.ai became the first company to roll out a public-facing robotaxi pilot service in California. Earlier this month Pony said it will use next-generation technology for robotaxis and that it will use lidars made by Luminar Technologies.

Pony.ai currently has robotaxi services in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, and Irvine and Fremont in California with a fleet of about 200 autonomous vehicles.

Fundraise

In February 2021, Pony announced an additional raise of $100 million in Series C. In November 2020, the company had picked up $267 million in that Series, and in the process, earned itself a valuation tag of $5.3 billion.

The Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP), a fund from the stable of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, led the round.

“We see a significant global opportunity for autonomous vehicle technology,” had said Olivia Steedman, Senior Managing Director, TIP, at Ontario Teachers’ at the time. “Pony.ai’s leading technology and deep, strategic understanding of the sector have helped to position the company as a leader in this space.”

Related Story:  Chinese Driverless Company Pony.ai Raises $100M In Extended Round

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