California has let two Chinese startups offer robotaxis to the public
2019-06-24 11:40

China’s autonomous cars are coming for passengers in the United States. AutoX and Pony.ai just became the first Chinese companies allowed to offer robotaxis in the state of California, according to notices posted on the website of the California Public Utilities Commission this week.


Started in 2016 by Princeton University professor Jianxiong Xiao, called “Professor X” by his students, AutoX is now one of China’s most well-funded autonomous driving startups alongside Pony.ai, which was co-founded in 2016 by two former executives at Baidu’s self-driving department.

AutoX 于 2016 年由普林斯顿大学教授肖建雄创立,而肖建雄也被学生们称作 “X 教授”。目前,AutoX 是中国资金最充足的自动驾驶创业公司之一。小马智行于 2016 年由百度自动驾驶部门的两名前高管创立。

AutoX said in January that it was in talks with investors to raise a lofty $100 million. Pony.ai had banked at least $214 million in funding as of April.

AutoX 于今年 1 月表示,正在与投资者讨论融资 1 亿美元。截至 4 月份,小马智行已经完成了至少 2.14 亿美元的融资。

While more than 62 companies hold the permits to test autonomous vehicles in California, very few are actually allowed to transport people in those cars. Zoox passed a new milestone when it received the first green light to provide robotaxi services in the state six months ago. Now AutoX and Pony.ai have joined the exclusive club, bringing to three the number of participants in the pilot program.

目前已有超过 62 家公司持有在加州测试自动驾驶汽车的牌照,但实际上很少有公司被允许用这些汽车去运送乘客。6 个月前,Zoox 首先在加州获得了提供自动驾驶出租车服务的许可。目前,AutoX 和小马智行也加入了这个阵营,使得参与试点项目的公司达到 3 家。

autonomous driving

Screenshot from the California Public Utilities Commission website


There are a few catches, though. The type of permission granted to the three companies is for the “Drivered AV Passenger Service,” which forbids companies to charge passengers for test rides and requires a safety driver behind the wheel. No entity has so far been permitted to run real driverless passenger services in California, a sign that regulators aren’t quite ready to let tech companies transport the public without human oversight.

不过仍然有一些限制。这 3 家公司获得的许可类型是 “有司机的自动驾驶汽车客运服务”,这种服务禁止公司向乘客收取试乘费用,并要求有司机坐在方向盘后。到目前为止,还没有任何实体被允许在加州提供真正的无人驾驶客运服务。这表明,监管机构还没有做好准备,让科技公司在真正无人监控的情况下进行客运。

AutoX, which is already using self-driving vehicles to deliver groceries in San Jose, is getting a headstart by introducing California’s first robotaxi service. People living in north San Jose or Santa Clara can now apply to join its early-rider program and give feedback, says an instruction on its website. A spokesperson for Pony.ai told TechCrunch that the company also began offering robotaxi services as soon as it received the permit.

AutoX 已经在圣何塞使用自动驾驶汽车去运送生鲜杂货。凭借在加州的自动驾驶出租车服务,该公司将取得领先地位。该公司网站上的信息显示,圣何塞北部和圣克拉拉的居民目前可以申请加入该公司的早期试乘项目,并提供反馈。小马智行的发言人则表示,该公司在收到许可之后将会立刻提供无人驾驶客运服务。

Alphabet’s Waymo launched a passenger service in Phoenix last December and said it would have a trained driver to assist passengers if needed. While Waymo is allowed to charge passengers, it can only ferry a vetted group of people, so the program isn’t available to everyone.

去年 12 月,Alphabet 旗下 Waymo 在凤凰城推出客运服务。与加州一样,亚利桑那州也要求自动驾驶汽车配备训练有素的司机,在必要的情况下来协助操作。尽管 Waymo 被允许对客运服务收费,但只能运送经过审核的人群,因此并不是所有人都可以参与这个项目。

These confinements seem sensible, given legal and ethical concerns raised by critics. Last year, Uber’s self-driving test vehicle struck and killed a woman in Temple, prompting the transportation giant to suspend its test drives. The incident has become a cautionary tale for startups in the field. Take Momenta, the first Chinese autonomous driving startup to pass $1 billion in valuation. The CEO requires all executives to ride a minimum number of autonomous miles themselves, so management would put passenger safety first.

考虑到批评者提出的法律和道德担忧,这些限制似乎是合理的。去年,Uber 的自动驾驶测试车辆在 Temple 撞死了一名女性,导致该公司暂停了自动驾驶汽车的测试。这起事件已成为该领域创业公司的警示故事。以 Momenta,这个中国首家估值超过 10 亿美元的自动驾驶创业公司为例。该公司 CEO 要求所有高管都亲自乘坐自动驾驶汽车一定里程数,从而让管理层把乘客安全放在首位。

Chinese startups covet the California license for a number of reasons. First, self-driving cars are by nature data-hungry. There are only a small handful of cities worldwide that allow robotaxis on public roads, so it always helps to collect more mileage whenever permissible.


Many of these Chinese companies have also set up research and development centers in California to tap the region’s tech talent. Pony .ai, for example, deploys R&D staff and offices across Silicon Valley, Beijing and Guangzhou. AutoX opened an R&D center in Shenzhen earlier this year, but still keeps development teams in San Jose.

许多中国公司也在加州设立了研发中心,以挖掘该地区的科技人才。例如,小马智行在硅谷、北京和广州设立了研发中心和办公室。AutoX 今年早些时候在深圳成立了研发中心,但仍保留着位于圣何塞的研发团队。

0 条评论