Pony.ai partners with carpooling app Ontime for integration into its robotaxi service
pony.aiRelentless efforts to bring robotaxi services to market gained momentum with the confirmation of a new partnership with Chinese carpooling app, Ontime, owned by automaker GAC.
As part of the deal, the self-driving company will integrate its technology into 100 GAC vehicles which will then be available for a ride on Ontime. The paid service is expected to launch in city of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, later this year.
The news comes just days after Toyota-backed Pony.ai announced it was obtained a taxi license to operate a fleet of robot taxis in the Nansha district of the same city – the first standalone company to obtain such a license in China. However, Pony.ai would like to point out that the 100 robotaxis that will take to the road under taxi license will run alongside the 100 GAC vehicles.
Ontime is firmly established as one of China’s leading ride-hailing providers, offering services in cities such as Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhuhai, Shenzhen, and Dongguan, while GAC is one of the country’s largest automakers. The Guangzhou-based company sold 442,363 cars in China in 2021, up 28.4% from 2020.
Pony.ai and Ontime believe the new service could hold the key to successfully persuading people to pay for self-driving taxis.
“For a robotaxi service to be accepted by customers, it must be accessible through a ridesharing platform,” said Jiang Hua, CEO of Ontime. “By providing a robotaxi business operation solution and robotaxi vehicle operation infrastructure, we believe this joint partnership can accelerate the sustainable business development of a robotaxi service.”
Ontime’s robotaxi platform – the first of its kind in China – is likely to turn out to be just a taste of what is to come.
“[It has] the potential for rapid expansion into many other parts of China,” confirmed James Peng, co-founder and CEO of Pony.ai. “This collaboration is a perfect example of Pony.ai’s approach to rapid mass marketing with partners.”
However, Pony.ai does not limit itself to using software from other companies and is also committed to developing its own carpooling application, PonyPilot+.
With the company now granted permission to operate commercial robotaxi services in Guangzhou and Beijing – under a separate special permit – it aims to expand to Shanghai and Shenzhen in 2023, with a targeted mass marketing for 2024/2025.
And Pony.ai isn’t just focused on China. He has also been active in Fremont, California, although he suffered a setback last year when he had his driverless test license suspended by the California Department of Motor Vehicles after one of its Hyundai Kona test cars was involved in an accident.