Autonomous driving startup Pony.ai (小马智行), recently announced that its total mileage has just exceeded one million kilometers.
The Sequoia Capital-backed company has received USD 264 million over three financing rounds, making it China’s most valuable autonomous driving startup. Pony.ai specialized in Level 4 autonomous driving technology for passenger cars, and since April 2019 Pony.ai has also been working on its new venture, trucks.
“Through constant pursuit of technology, Pony.ai has significantly improved the reliability of its software and hardware systems, the efficiency of its fleet operation and the scalability of its technology,” claimed Pony.ai’s CEO James Peng.
The Beijing-based company has made several strategic agreements with global automotive giants within the last few months. Starting from August, Pony.ai has partnered with Japanese auto market leader Toyota in Pony.ai’s pilot program that set to be implemented in Beijing and Shanghai. The program aims to tackle the area of ‘safe’ mobility services.
In its latest deal in October, Pony.ai began cooperating with South Korean automaker Hyundai, to establish a self-driving system for pilot ride-sharing service BotRide, competing against Google’s Waymo, which began its testing long before them. The fleet is coming in with 10 autonomous Hyundai electric KONA vehicles, with the aim of looking at consumer behavior, in order to optimize their experience.
Pony.ai obtained California road test license in June 2017 and subsequently in Guangzhou, later that year in December. By July 2018, Pony.ai was officially issued with the highest level of road test license T3, from Beijing Municipal Government.
Earlier this year, China issued the ‘2018 Annual Work Report of Beijing Automated Driving Vehicle Road Test.’ The report revealed that a total of 56 autonomous cars from 8 companies have successfully safely driven a staggering 163,600 kilometers, within the capital’s vicinity. In contrast to California’s report, Pony.ai’s main domestic rival Baidu, showed an outstanding performance compared to its peers, with 45 test vehicles and test mileage accounting for 91%.
With only 2 test vehicles, Pony.ai only started operation in July and came in second behind Baidu at the end of 2018, covering a test mileage of over 10,000 kilometers. The 5,067 kilometers per vehicle mileage of Pony.ai is higher than that of Baidu, with only 3109 kilometers, implying that Pony.ai is more efficient compared to its peers.
The Chinese government is seeking to accelerate the deployment and commercialization of autonomous vehicles, by issuing more autonomous driving test drive licenses. According to a study conducted by CV intellectual, as of July 2019, 18 cities across China have issued a total of 202 licenses.