Pony.ai, a self-driving technology firm sponsored by Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T), announced on Sunday that it had secured a taxi licence in China, allowing some of its self-driving vehicles to begin charging fees.
The company claimed to be the country’s first autonomous driving company.
The company said that it has been granted a licence to operate 100 self-driving vehicles in the Nansha neighbourhood of Guangzhou.
Pony.ai was also granted permission to provide paid autonomous robotaxi services in Beijing last year and has since begun providing rides.
Rides are being offered on a trial basis in a much smaller, industrial zone in Beijing, according to a Pony.ai representative.
According to the company’s announcement, in Nansha, autonomous cars will begin charging fees across the district’s 800 square kilometres. Pony.ai’s own app allows passengers to summon and pay for rides.
Pony.ai plans to deploy the cars with safety drivers at first but expects to remove them “in the short to intermediate time frame,” according to the company.
The announcement comes at a time when a slew of entrepreneurs are putting billions of dollars into self-driving technology in the hopes of getting a head start on the future of transportation.
Pony.ai has been testing its driverless technology on public highways in California’s Fremont and Milpitas, as well as Guangzhou and Beijing in China.
A slew of Chinese businesses is vying for attention. Momenta and SAIC (600104. SS) recently received regulatory authorisation for testing their robotaxi service in Shanghai’s Jiading neighbourhood, following a similar move by Nissan-baked Weride(7201.T) in Guangzhou.
In Shenzhen, Alibaba-backed AutoX (9988. HK) is also testing robotaxis in a busy metropolitan area with a lot of pedestrian and scooter traffic, which is being supervised by safety drivers.