BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.
The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.
The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.
Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.
Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.
The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California.
Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.
— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.