Two companies just got permission to have fully self-driving cars do taxi services in part of Beijing. One company, Baidu’s Apollo Go, got permission for ten cars, and Pony.ai got permission for four. They won’t be required to have a staff member in the driver’s seat like they used to, but they’ll need a supervisor somewhere in the car. They’ll also be limited to around 60 square kilometers in the suburban area of Yizhuang.
Both companies want more than that in the future, but a timeframe for that expansion is unclear.
“Pony.ai’s approval to operate driverless robotaxis in Beijing is a critical milestone in the transition from testing driverless autonomous vehicles within Pony.ai to offering driverless robotaxi rides to public passengers,” said James Peng, co-founder and CEO of Pony.ai.
“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,” said Tiancheng Lou, co-founder and CTO of Pony.ai.