Leadership & Strategy
Pony.ai plans to launch 200 autonomous taxis by early 2019
May 20, 2020
The most valuable autonomous driving startup in China, Pony.ai, has announced plans to introduce 200 self-driving taxis to its fleet by early 2019
Aiming to launch 100 vehicles in China and 100 in the US, Pony.ai’s latest move signals the company’s drive to produce a competitive fleet.
Major competition in the sector is led by Alphabet’s Waymo which, according to the South China Morning Post, “is expanding its pilot project under way in Phoenix, Arizona, where on-demand robot rides are provided for free”.
Waymo is also purchasing 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to expand its own fleet, although Pony.ai’s co-founder and chief executive played down the gulf between the two companies’ progress.
“The starting point is not most important”, he said.
“Our next target is to build a fleet, as what is most important is to turn autonomous cars into mass production and achieve scalability”.
He added that the 200 new vehicles will enable Pony.ai “to hone overall stability and reliability of the self-driving system, readying for getting closer to commercialisation”.
SCMP remarked that “it is not possible to formally compare Pony.ai to its rivals” at such an early stage.
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Zhang Yimeng, Pony.ai’s head of perception research, said:
“It’s true that Waymo had an early start with nearly a decade of work. But it was only in recent years that the technologies became mature enough to transform into a product”.
Zhang worked with Google for six years prior to joining Pony.ai, and Waymo itself was a Google project before being spun out into its own Alphabet-owned business.
In July, Pony.ai raised US$214mn in its series A round of fundraising, the largest amount of capital raised in an A round by a Chinese autonomous driving company.