California-based start-up begins autonomous driving tests in China
Pony.ai, an autonomous driving start-up with its head office in Fremont, California, United States, has launched a trial service of self-driving cars on city roads in China, reports Xinhua News Agency. The trial service was launched on a route of about 1.7 miles (about 2.7 km) in Nansha district, Guangzhou province, in southern China. During the ongoing trials, Pony.ai's team has developed a specific software module that enables the cars to handle severe weather such as heavy rain and is a technical breakthrough, reports the news source.
Significance: Pony.ai was founded by James Peng and Tiancheng Lou. Peng is a former chief architect at the autonomous driving division of Baidu. The company raised USD112 million last month to support development of it driverless vehicle technology. Its platform aims to connect a self-driving car's sensors, software, cameras, and other technologies to create a system capable of Level 4 autonomy (highly automated mode with no driver interference). Testing of cars in China indicates Pony's intentions to be an early player in the autonomous vehicle industry in China. The Chinese government has begun to show strong support for autonomous driving vehicle technology as it begins to fast-track the sector in China. By 2035, China wants to lead the world in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, with self-driving vehicles part of its mandate. The mandate from the central government is that 50% of all new vehicles sold in China by 2020 must have partial or full autonomous functions. Last month, the Chinese authorities announced plans to develop new 54.87-hectare technology park for autonomous technology. The park will be located in the Mengtougou suburban district of Beijing with an estimated investment tag of CNY13.8 billion (USD2.1 billion). The autonomous vehicles are expected to be welcomed by the majority of people of China. According to a recent survey by TUV Rheinland in China, more than 63% of respondents believed that driverless cars will increase road safety. A higher proportion of people in China believe that as the level of automation increases in a vehicle, road safety as a whole will also increase. There has been a significant increase in the number of start-ups vying for market share in the new energy vehicle (NEV) market as well as in the autonomous vehicle segment, especially in China. However, existing players are also strengthening their presence in these sectors and, therefore, competition is likely to intensify. There has also been a spate of start-ups filing for bankruptcy in recent times.
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