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Chinese robotaxi startup goes to California Chinese robotaxi startup goes to California
Chinese robotaxi startup, Pony.ai, has been given the green light to test driverless vehicles in three Californian cities. In late May 2021, the Department... Chinese robotaxi startup goes to California

Chinese robotaxi startup, Pony.ai, has been given the green light to test driverless vehicles in three Californian cities. In late May 2021, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) allowed for the testing in several prominent areas, making Pony.ai one of the only firms allowed to conduct full driverless testing in the state.

Pony.ai has been testing autonomous vehicles in the Golden State since 2017 and is now only the eighth company with the clearance to conduct autonomous testing without a safety driver. Other firms with permission include fellow Chinese startups Baidu, AutoX and WeRide, as well as Google-owned startup, Waymo. Only one company of the eight, Nuro, has a permit to operate commercially.

With the new clearance, six Pony.ai automobiles have access to several roads in the Californian cities of Fremont, Irvine and Milpitas. The testers are limited to roads where the speed limit is lower than 45mph or 72 km/h, may only conduct tests in fair weather and between the hours of 10am and 3pm in Fremont and Milpitas initially, according to TechCrunch.

At present, there are at least 55 different firms that have a permit to test autonomous vehicles on Californian roads. Every company in possession of a permit is required to provide insurance of $5 million and report any major incidents to the DMV within 10 days.

One of the ways Pony.ai is trying to keep passengers safe is with its new Lidar system. Lidar systems create 3D images of the world around them by projecting lasers and gathering information from reflected light via a receiver. Early Lidar systems were unfortunately likened to “spinning KFC buckets” mounted on top of the car’s roof.

Pony.ai opted for the newest Lidar system developed by Luminar, which protrudes only 10cm from the vehicle’s roof, something Luminar CEO described as “seamlessly integrated into vehicle design”. This Lidar system – aptly named Iris –  has a range of 500 metres and will be incorporated into Pony.ai’s fleet in 2022, according to Pony.ai CEO, James Peng.
 
Peng and fellow former Baidu developer, Lou Tiancheng, founded the startup in 2016. Since then Pony.ai has raised more than a billion dollars in funding and formed partnerships with several prominent automakers including Hyundai and Toyota, the latter of which has sunk $400 million into the unicorn.

https://www.theverge.com/2021/5/10/22424726/pony-ai-luminar-lidar-robotaxi-california-china

Janet Bartlet

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