Hyundai, Via and Chinese startup Pony.ai launch robotaxi pilot service in California

The pilot service will be operative on public roads.

Photo:Shutterstock.com

Guangzhou-headquartered startup Pony.ai, South Korean auto giant Hyundai, and New York-headquartered transportation network company Via, have unveiled a self-driving on-demand ride-sharing pilot service called BotRide, according to a press release of Hyundai.

The service will be operative from next November 4 to January 31 on public roads in the community of Irvine, California, United States, Hyundai announced. BotRide will utilize Hyundai’s KONA Electric self-driving SUVs to provide free ride-sharing services during the pilot.

“The goal is to study consumer behavior in an autonomous ride-sharing environment,” said Christopher Chang, head of business development, strategy and technology division at Hyundai.

The South Korean auto giant added in the press release that it partnered with Pony.ai to build the self-driving system, and with Via to create the BotRide on-demand ridesharing technology and application. In June this year, Pony.ai obtained a robotaxi operation permit for California.

Pony.ai was founded in 2016 by James Peng and Tiancheng Lou. Peng worked for Baidu as the chief architect of its autonomous driving division before working with Google, helping the company to develop its advertising systems. Lou also began his career at Google, working on autonomous vehicle technology at Google X, which later became Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc focusing on self-driving technology development.

Earlier this month, Waymo sent out an email to its earliest customers in the Phoenix area in Arizona, informing them that completely driverless cars—with no human backup driver behind the wheel—are on the way. The letter, later reshared on Reddit, didn’t mention an exact starting date, but showed the company’s intention to rival other autonomos driving companies, such as Baidu, Pony.ai, or WeRide, that are already testing robotaxi services.

Pony.ai says it has been testing its autonomous robotaxi service named PonyPilot in Guangzhou, the capital of South China’s Guangdong province, since late last year, but the service is currently only limited to the company’s employees and others special guests.