SAIC AI Lab, a division of SAIC Motor in China, has announced a collaboration with advanced driverless AI developer Pony.ai to design and implement a new fleet of driverless level 4 autonomous robotaxis. The companies kicked off their new project by unveiling a fully autonomous EV concept from which the fleet will be built.
SAIC Motor Corporation Ltd. is a Chinese state-owned automotive company based in Shanghai, and one of the largest automakers in the country. Electrek has previously covered SAIC-owned brands like MG Motor, but the Chinese conglomerate also produces vehicles through joint ventures with companies like Volkswagen and GM.
In the summer of 2021, SAIC promised to have 40 to 60 level 4 autonomous robotaxis operating on the streets of China before year’s end, stating it was embracing AI and that SAIC might as well stand for Shanghai AI Corporation instead of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.
Since then, SAIC Motor has spun out its own autonomous-focused division called SAIC AI Lab, which will be the entity spearheading the collaboration with autonomous driving specialist, Pony.ai. A specialist that already has level 4 autonomous robotaxis operating paid rides in the streets of China.
Together, both teams look to combine vehicle manufacturing know-how with AI expertise, to offer a fleet of electric robotaxis designed from the ground up.
SAIC and Pony.ai to mass-produce autonomous robotaxis
The two tech companies shared details of their new autonomous robotaxi venture in a press release, outlining some of the technological specs of the concept EV, as well as goals for mass production.
Unlike other level 4 autonomous robotaxis operating using Pony.ai’s technology, this upcoming fleet will be purpose built-from the ground up rather than being implemented on an existing EV. The current concept being showcased today is based on a SAIC Marvel R model, however.
The companies state they will team up to develop the EV’s chassis, intelligent cockpit, human-machine interface, remote assistance, and other intelligent driving technologies. Both state that the goal of reaching mass production on these purpose-built autonomous EVs is to accelerate widespread commercial adoption of robotaxis services and autonomous driving as a whole throughout China. SAIC AI Lab general manager Dang Xiang elaborated:
Pony.ai is a global leader in autonomous driving. SAIC AI Lab has mature technical strengths in driverless operation, vehicle development, and intelligent cockpit. Its robotaxi project has been affirmed by the market. It is believed that the cooperation between the two companies will accelerate commercialization progress, upgrade mobility services, and advance the establishment of intelligent urban transportation.
The current concept vehicle that made its debut is equipped with 17 integrated automotive-grade sensors to create a 360-degree visual range covering 200 meters, eliminating blind spots around the entire vehicle. All powered by Pony.ai’s latest generation of autonomous technology. The vehicle also features a foldable steering wheel that “provides a human-machine interaction experience that significantly advances automobile autonomy.”
Both SAIC AI Lab and Pony.ai state that they will continue to advance their technology and build out a connected network of autonomous technologies to support the fleet of robotaxis. There is no timeline on when Chinese citizens can expect to hail a ride in this new fleet, for now the teams simply state they will be implemented over time.
Parent company SAIC Motor has previously shared plans to begin mass production of robotaxis in China by 2025. Perhaps with Pony.ai onboard, the auto manufacturer can reach its goal more quickly.
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