Toyota-backed Pony.ai, which already operates a pilot “robotaxi” service in the U.S. and China, has secured a license from the Guangzhou municipal government to test self-driving trucks on the city’s public roads, a sign that the startup is aiming to apply its technology to autonomous logistics.
The move comes at a time when tech firms, e-commerce giants and startups — including TuSimple, Alibaba and JD.com — are pouring capital into developing driverless trucks or autonomous delivery robots for logistics.
Four-year-old Pony.ai said that the public road tests in Guangzhou will accelerate the validation of its self-driving truck technology, which has gone through various tests involving traffic light recognition, obstacle avoidance, car-following, lane merging, overtaking, emergency parking and navigated crossroads and roundabouts.
During the third China International Import Expo in November, Pony.ai for the first time showcased its Level 4 self-driving hardware and software system specially designed for heavy trucks.
Experts say that it could be easier to use self-driving technology in logistics trucks than in passenger cars because trucks spend most of the time on expressways which have less complex road conditions.
This notion is reflected in the business of TuSimple, a self-driving truck firm splitting its operations between China and the U.S., which has launched several long-haul autonomous logistics routes between American states. The company has unveiled plans to build an autonomous freight network that will span 48 U.S. states by 2024.
JD.com and Alibaba, the two largest e-commerce companies in China, have also started using autonomous logistics robots capable of planning delivery routes and identifying obstacles for last-mile deliveries in some cities.
Contact reporter Ding Yi (firstname.lastname@example.org)