Pony.ai says it is the first autonomous company to obtain a taxi license in China

Autonomous driving company Pony.ai can collect fees for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities starting Sunday.

Pony.ai Brochure

BEIJING — Autonomous vehicle startup Pony.ai announced Sunday that it has 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 startup, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from the city of Beijing late last year to charge fees for operating a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi license.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same district of Beijing 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 tests in China and/or other countries, and not being involved in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The startup said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other major 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.

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