California’s Transportation Department allows another company to put cars on the road without a safety driver at the wheel. Another Chinese startup is testing automated driving in California. The US state transportation agency, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), has given Pony.ai permission to operate cars in three cities without a safety driver behind the wheel.
Pony.ai has been allowed to drive automatically in California for test purposes since 2017. However, a safety driver has to be on board so far. With the new DMV license, the company can do without the safety driver during test drives, i.e. drive in a highly automated and fully automated manner – level 4 and 5.
However, the DMV makes restrictions: Pony.ai is allowed to have six vehicles in use in Fremont, Milpitas and Irvine. Testing is only permitted on roads that are not allowed to drive faster than 45 miles per hour (about 72 km / h). The weather has to be friendly, light rain is allowed. Initially, the vehicles will only be on the road on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Driving without a security person at the wheel
According to DMV, Pony.ai is the eighth company to test driverless cars in California. The Alphabet subsidiary Waymo was the first company to receive approval. This was followed by AutoX, Baidu and We-ride from China and the US company Cruise, Nuro and Zoox.
In addition, there are 55 other companies that are allowed to drive automatically, but with one person at the steering wheel. These include the German car groups BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen as well as the supplier Continental.
Pony.ai has two headquarters, one in Guangzhou and one in Silicon Valley. Last year, the Japanese auto company Toyota invested $ 400 million in the company. According to Pony.ai, it plans to use its vehicles as robotic taxis in regular operation in 2023.