Chinese Startups To Compete With Tech Giants To Make Self Driving Taxis A Reality
Two very new startups are encouragingly moving forward with their ambitions to put self driving cars on the road as early as this year. On Jan. 28, Pony.ai, a year-old startup, said it was starting public test drives of its autonomous vehicle in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, which has opened some streets to such trials (paywall). Two days later, JingChi, less than a year old, launched a similar road test program that will run for three months.
Both companies are initiatives by former executives at Baidu; Pony.ai was founded by two engineers from Baidu’s self-driving unit, while JingChi was started by Wang Jing, the former chief of Baidu’s self-driving unit.
Pony.ai has so far put six vehicles through a three-kilometer road test. Only available through “internal reservations” right now, Pony.ai hopes to roll out a ride-hailing program for local citizens to try out self-driving in Nansha. There will be a driver and a technician in the vehicle in the road tests open to the public.
JingChi is conducting its tests on Guangzhou International Biotech Island, which covers an area of 1.8 square km (445 acres). It takes the car around 15 minutes to circle the island. JingChi completed its first road test in June, and received $52 million in funding in September. It has said wants to produce up to 1,000 self-driving cars in 2018, and provide hundreds of autonomous taxis to China’s central Anhui province the same year.