Start-up Pony.ai says it is the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai will be able to collect rates for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities from Sunday.

Pony.ai Award Ceremony

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced on Sunday that it has obtained a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The permit will allow Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received permission from the city of Beijing late last year to charge fees for operating a commercial robotic taxi company in a suburb of the city. It is not the same as a taxi permit.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in active liability road accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotic axi companies in two other major Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California.

Robotaxis in China currently has a human driver present for safety.

Arjun Kharpal of CNBC contributed to this report.



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