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Yet Another Robotaxi Pilot Starting Up

The company behind the first publicly available robotaxi services in both China and California, Pony.ai, has taken another significant step forward in a groundbreaking pilot with the city of Fremont, California. [1]

Fremont, a city of 230,000, has recently started a pilot program with start-up autonomous driving firm Pony.ai. During the project, Pony.ai which just received an injection of $462m from Toyota [2], will ferry city works from Fremont’s train station to City Hall and Fremont Development Services Center. As a part of Fremont’s larger Mobility Action Plan [3], this project is expected to yield essential feedback for the future development of safer, more sustainable, and smarter cities. One of the main targets the project has is the reduction of single-occupant commuting from 73% to 50% by 2040. James Peng, CEO of Pony.ai, made the comment that with this pilot they will “facilitate business activity and create economic value for the broader region, as well as contribute to a safe and congestion-free transportation environment.”

 

Personal comments

This is an interesting development in the autonomous vehicle space. Two comments are worth making. First, the aimed reduction of single-occupant commuting to 50% of trips by 2040 strikes me as not ambitious enough, unless it is combined with a more extensive uptake of electric vehicles in the remaining 50%. Second, a program like this in the context of Fremont is excellent for addressing a gap left by many autonomous shuttle projects. Pony.ai promises the development of autonomous technology that will allow mobility service in the highly decentralized layout of Fremont, something that many autonomous shuttle services would be unable to accomplish. I believe this is an essential part of moving transportation in a sustainable direction.

 

Written by Joshua Bronson, RISE.

 

Sources

1. 2020-02-28. City of Fremont launches autonomous shuttle service for employees.
2. 2020-03-02. Toyota invests US$462m in self-driving startup Pony.ai.
3. 2019-03-05. Mobility Action Plan.