Guangzhou-based startup Pony.ai launched an app at the end of last year that allows users to hail rides from driverless taxis, a service that could potentially rival Didi’s in China one day. For now, the service is only available for use in Guangzhou by the company’s employees and a few VIPs — understandable given the company only has a fleet of 19 autonomous vehicles and is still working to improve safety.
That number will expand from 19 to 100 by 2020, CEO James Peng told CNBC, and the company will improve the performance and safety of the vehicles by collecting data from the current driverless taxi service. Their goal, Peng said, is “to provide safe and convenient rides to the end user”, the company’s “ultimate revenue stream” — and that stream will definitely be wide and deep for whoever wins the race to large-scale consumer availability.
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Pony.ai isn’t the first company to offer a driverless taxi service — Alphabet’s Waymo also launched a limited autonomous taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona toward the end of last year, and fellow Guangzhou-based autonomous vehicle company WeRide.ai has already been collaborating with the city’s taxi service to test their driverless vehicles.
Just more evidence that driverless vehicles hitting the roads en masse could come sooner than we realized — still waiting for the 3D-printed ones though.
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