Self-driving startup Pony.ai has nabbed licenses to test autonomous vehicles carrying passengers on Beijing’s roads in designated areas, a move that could pave the way for the broader commercialization of such cars.
According to a statement published Monday on the company’s public WeChat account, Pony.ai will mainly focus on testing their fleet of internet-based “robotaxis” on limited routes in the Chinese capital’s Haidian district and Yizhuang in the southeast of the city.
The “robotaxis” will be able to pick up passengers and drive on specified public roads, although a human will have to be present in the driver’s seat just in case of an emergency.
The issuance of the licenses to Pony.ai comes six months after Beijing gave the green light to road test autonomous vehicles carrying passengers.
The company, which is based in California and has research and development centers in Beijing and Guangzhou, claim that its five autonomous vehicles logged a total of 114,700 kilometers in test drives on specially approved roads in Beijing last year and importantly this did not involve passengers.
Pony.ai has taken a further step in making its robotaxi service available to the general public in the U.S. in February, when the company unveiled the PonyPilot service in Fremont, California, allowing local government employees to hail taxis equipped with the company’s own self-driving system using an specially designed app on fixed routes.