Pony.ai to launch fleet of robotaxis with Ontime, GAC’s ride-hailing app

James Peng, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pony.ai

Pony.ai, an autonomous driving tech company, announced a deeper partnership with Ontime, GAC’s ride-hailing app. As part of the partnership, Pony.ai will integrate its virtual driver technology into GAC vehicles, which will then be used on GAC’s Ontime ride-hailing platform.

Ontime expects to launch its fee-charging robotaxi service in Guangzhou during 2022. The service will launch with an initial fleet of about 100 autonomous driving Ontime cars. Riders will be able to request Pony.ai autonomous vehicles through the Ontime App as well as through Pony.ai’s own PonyPilot+ App. Pony.ai is also investing in Ontime’s Series A financing.

What does the partnership mean to Pony.ai?

Ontime is one of China’s leading ride-hailing providers, offering many app-based ride-hailing services across cities of Greater Bay Area, like Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Dongguan. GAC is one of China’s largest automakers and a longtime Pony.ai partner.

Pony.ai’s close collaboration with Ontime enables the two companies to leverage their own unique advantages to accelerate commercialization of autonomous driving technology.

“Our deep cooperation with Ontime is key to our strategy of building the autonomous driving ride-hailing ecosystem,” said James Peng co-founder and CEO of Pony.ai.

“This program with Ontime will start in Nansha, Guangzhou, where we currently operate, with the potential to expand quickly throughout many other regions of China. This collaboration is a perfect example of Pony.ai’s approach to rapid mass commercialization with partners.”

“For robotaxi service to gain customer acceptance, it must be accessible through a ride-hailing platform. Ontime will launch the first fully open robotaxi operation platform in the domestic ride-hailing industry,” said Jiang Hua, CEO of Ontime.

“By providing a robotaxi commercial solution and vehicle operating infrastructure, we believe this deal can accelerate the sustainable commercial development of robotaxi service.”

What is Pony.ai’s market reach in China?

In addition to working with leading ride-hailing firms like Ontime, Pony.ai continues to deploy its robotaxi app, PonyPilot+. This deal with Ontime builds on Pony.ai’s April 24 announcement that it is the first and only autonomous driving firm to receive a taxi license in China, with a permit to operate 100 autonomous vehicles as traditional taxis in Nansha, Guangzhou.

In May, Pony.ai will start charging fares in the entire 803 square kilometers of Nansha with 100 Pony.ai robotaxis and intends to expand the scale and scope of service to other areas of Guangzhou to benefit more residents. The 100 vehicle Pony.ai fleet in Nansha with a taxi license will be separate from and will operate in parallel to the Pony.ai-Ontime fleet.

Pony.ai also received a fee-charging permit for robotaxi services in Beijing and is now the sole firm approved to commercialize autonomous driving services in two Tier-1 cities in China.

With successful commercialization in Beijing and Guangzhou, Pony.ai plans to expand its robotaxi footprint to the other two Tier-1 cities in China next year and to more cities by the start of Pony.ai’s mass commercialization planned for 2024/2025. Pony.ai currently has autonomous vehicle testing and operations in all four of China’s Tier-1 cities and in California.