China's largest autonomous vehicle startup companies, Pony.ai has recently launched their mobile app that will allow consumers to summon a self-driving taxi, becoming one of the very first companies to accomplish this feat.
The app, which was quietly launched in late December, allows a user to hail a self-driving taxi from a pre-set location in Nansha, which is part of Guangzhou in southern China. The car can travel to specific areas that have been set by the company such as its offices or residential areas.
Currently, only employees and a few VIP users are using the app, which is a mini-program built within WeChat, China's most popular messaging service. Rides are free for now.
Pony.ai, a $1 billion firm co-located in China and the U.S., makes software to power driverless cars. It does not make the vehicle itself. Instead it has partnered with automakers including China's BYD and GAC.
The company's technology relies on continuous testing and data gathering to improve the software, something that will be boosted by an autonomous taxi service carrying real passengers.
"It is the data, it is improving the capability of our driverless cars, we will inevitably encounter a lot more scenarios and we can use that to improve the system," James Peng, CEO of Pony.ai, told CNBC on Monday when asked about what he will get from the driverless taxi service.
Peng said the company will look to grow its fleet of cars from 20 to 100 this year.
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