On Wednesday, self-driving car firm Pony.ai announced its latest partnership with Chinese technology giant Meituan, which aims to create unmanned vehicles that will cater to food delivery services. This collaboration is part of Pony.ai’s efforts to license its technology to seek new revenue sources, backed by Toyota. The companies expect to deploy at least 10,000 autonomous robots to travel on bustling urban roads in China’s first-tier cities by the end of 2024.
Pony.ai’s delivery robots will be equipped with their advanced autonomous driving controller, based on Nvidia’s Drive Orin platform. The self-driving car company initially developed its own autonomous vehicle fleets for ride-hailing, but it has since pivoted towards focusing on designing autonomous driving systems for car manufacturers and businesses across a wide range of autonomous industries, from freight transport to public sanitation.
This new partnership with Meituan is not Pony.ai’s first venture into autonomous delivery services. The company has also collaborated with other industry players, including state-owned automaker FAW and Softbank-backed food delivery startup Neolix. These partnerships aim to address the growing demand for unmanned delivery services in China, which has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to The Verge, Pony.ai has been testing its autonomous driving technology in California and China, where the company is based, and aims to launch a commercial robotaxi service in China soon. The company raised $462 million in a funding round in February 2021, bringing its valuation to over $5 billion.
The partnership between Pony.ai and Meituan will enable the companies to leverage each other’s strengths to accelerate the development and deployment of autonomous delivery robots in China. Pony.ai’s advanced autonomous driving controller combined with Meituan’s extensive food delivery network will create an efficient and safe delivery service for customers.