Pony.ai announced that it has been issued a fully driverless autonomous vehicle road test permit by the Beijing Intelligent Connected Vehicle Policy Pilot Zone. With this new permit, Pony.ai will deploy ten driverless robotaxis for testing in challenging urban traffic scenarios across a 20 square kilometer (7.7 square mile) area in the pilot zone in Yizhuang, Beijing. The autonomous vehicles will be tested without anyone in the vehicle; a safety officer will monitor the test vehicles remotely. As with the other regulatory approvals in Beijing over the last year, Pony.ai is in the first batch of only two AV companies.
In addition to receiving the driverless permit in Beijing, Pony.ai is also currently testing fully driverless vehicles in Guangzhou, laying the groundwork for future driverless applications and commercial operations.
Over the past year, the Beijing Intelligent Connected Vehicle Policy Pilot Zone has announced a number of industry-leading autonomous driving policies in succession. In October 2021, the pilot zone opened up autonomous driving unmanned road tests for the first time and divided “autonomous” testing into three stages: 1) “nobody behind the steering wheel but with a safety operator in the passenger seat”, 2) “nobody in the front row, but with a safety operator in the back row”, and 3) “fully driverless”. The issuance of this permit represents that autonomous testing in Beijing has entered the third stage of “fully driverless”. To enter this third stage, AV test vehicles need to have met strict technical and operational requirements such as test mileage and disengagement rate; Pony.ai’s ten test vehicles successfully passed the tests without any safety issues.
This permit builds upon other recent autonomous driving milestones for Pony.ai in Beijing: in November 2022, Pony.ai received approval to test with a safety operator in the back seat of the car, without anyone in the front row (stage two of the three stages). In July 2022, Pony.ai received a permit to provide fare-charging robotaxi services with a safety driver in the passenger seat. In April 2022, Pony received a permit for non-fare charging robotaxi rides in Beijing and received a license to operate as a taxi service in Guangzhou, becoming the first and only AV company to receive a taxi license in China.