China-based aritificial intellegience technology startup Pony.ai, has launched its autonomous ride-sharing fleet in China, and also announced strategic partnership with Chinese OEM Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) for future mobility.
On February 2, 2018, Pony.ai launched its autonomous ride-sharing fleet in Nansha, Guangzhou, China, becoming the first company to offer self-driving car rides on city roads to the general public in the country.
The event attendees experienced the self-driving cars on a 2.8km route (roughly 1.7 miles), where the company had recently established its China headquarters. In addition to trial rides, the event also consisted of a signing ceremony that solidified a strategic partnership between the young company and China's second-largest carmaker, Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC Group).
The company says since it established its presence in Nansha, its autonomous cars have already undergone rigorous road tests covering thousands of kilometres. It says within the span of three months, the autonomous driving platform has already learned to deal with unique road scenarios such as congested city streets, inclement weather, and unexpected road behaviour more typical of an urban Chinese driving environment. These scenarios have helped the Pony.ai team to further enhance and refine their algorithms, creating a more sophisticated AI system that is capable of handling more complex road conditions.
The company showcased six cars (4 Lincoln MKZs sedans and 2 GAC Chuanqis compact SUV) at the event, which saw various local government officials, Pony.ai partners, and key investors at the event.
Pony.ai's autonomous cars on public roads in Nansha, Guangzhou
This launch's trial route featured several challenging scenarios, including three consecutive lane changes, large multi-lane intersections, and bridge-crossings involving sloped roads.
A number of Guangzhou citizens experienced a trial ride with Pony.ai engineers who provided an overview of the technology, helping citizens engage more directly with the innovations that are revolutionising the transportation system. During Pony.ai's time in Guangzhou, the team has also developed a specific software module that enables the cars to handle inclement weather and heavy rain conditions. The company states that this technical breakthrough has enabled it to achieve new heights in reliability and safety.
Partnering GAC Group
Pony.ai and GAC Group – the second-largest automaker in China and a Fortune 500 corporation – established a strategic partnership to collaborate in four key areas – further development of self-driving technology, autonomous vehicle operationalisation, broader mobility development, and capital partnership. The partners will also, the two companies will work closely to make progress in research, development, and manufacturing of the vehicles.
Xingya Feng, president, GAC Group said: "The current global automotive industry is in the process of undergoing profound change. Automotive products are rapidly becoming smarter, more connected, and more lightweight while harnessing innovations in alternative energy. Against an ever-progressing backdrop of smart mobility and intelligent transportation, I believe this partnership between GAC Group and Pony.ai will spearhead innovations in automotive and beyond. Leveraging unique advantages that both organisations bring to the table, this partnership will greatly contribute to the development of China's smart car industry as well as the Nansha district of Guangzhou."
James Peng, co-founder and CEO, Pony.ai, said "The combination of Pony.ai's world-class capability in software development and GAC Group's exceptional capability in vehicle technology and production will undoubtedly yield an unparalleled autonomous driving system."
Harry Hu, COO, Pony.ai, added: "This partnership between GAC Group and Pony.ai has the potential for meaningful global impact and influence. We look forward to working with GAC Group to deliver the most reliable, safe, and comprehensive autonomous vehicle experience to the public."
Pony.ai said it was supported by several key partners that also attended the event which includes Velodyne, AutonomouStuff, and BDStar Navigation. The technology company states that working with new and existing partners, it aims build on Nansha's automotive foundation to create a leading city in innovative mobility.
As a part of Guangzhou's broader technology development effort, the Nansha district is leading the charge on advancing the local AI industry, deputy director of Nansha Development Zone, Ming Xie, stated that the district was rapidly building out its intelligent urban ecosystem and is striving to become a Ministry of Transportation test base for autonomous vehicles. The district is experiencing an in-pouring of economic and capital resources, including 33 investment projects in partnership with Fortune 500 companies such as Haier, China Life Insurance, China Petroleum, JD.com among others.