Pony.ai unveils its next-gen robotaxi with LIDAR from Luminar
Pony.ai’s next-generation robotaxi is distinctive as a result of it seems to be lacking the cone-shaped LIDAR sensor perched on the roof that’s typical of most autonomous autos. That’s as a result of the startup, which relies in Silicon Valley and Guangzhou, China, is teaming up with Luminar to make use of the fast-growing LIDAR firm’s modern new sensors which are extra flush with the automobile’s roof.
The brand new autos with Luminar’s LIDAR sensor received’t be up and working till 2022, however Pony.ai founder and CEO James Peng mentioned preparation was already underway for mass manufacturing of the next-gen robotaxi. After testing the automobile subsequent yr, Peng mentioned will probably be prepared for the corporate’s robotaxi prospects in 2023. Pony.ai presently affords restricted ride-hailing in its autonomous autos in 5 markets: Irvine and Fremont in California; Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in China.
Pony additionally introduced that it has pushed greater than 5 million kilometers (3.1 million miles) throughout an operational area of 850km and has offered over 250,000 robotaxi rides. The startup claims to be the primary firm to launch an autonomous ride-hailing operation and provide self-driving automobile rides to most of the people in China.
The corporate was additionally just lately authorized to check its totally autonomous autos, with out security drivers behind the wheel, on public roads in California. Peng mentioned Pony was presently searching for approval to incorporate these autos in its robotaxi service in California. “We are literally on the closing stage of getting the approval for vacationers,” he mentioned.
LIDAR, the laser sensor that sends thousands and thousands of laser factors out per second and measures how lengthy they take to bounce again, is seen as a key ingredient to autonomous driving. Peng mentioned that Pony would use 4 of Luminar’s Iris sensors, two on the roof and two extra on both sides of the automobile, to be able to “generate a really excessive decision LIDAR picture for our autonomous driving autos.”
Luminar says that its Iris LIDARs have a most vary of 500 meters (1,640 toes), together with 250-meter vary with lower than 10 % reflectivity. Luminar’s sensors are additionally distinctive from most different LIDAR sensors, which had been as soon as famously described as wanting like “spinning Kentucky Fried Rooster buckets.” In distinction, Iris is just about 10 centimeters tall. Austin Russell, founder and CEO of Luminar, described it as a “slim kind issue that’s meant to be seamlessly built-in into the automobile design.”
Pony.ai was valued at $3 billion after a $400 million funding from Toyota final yr. Luminar, which relies in Florida, went public final yr by way of a reverse merger with a particular acquisition firm, or SPAC. That merger valued the corporate at roughly $2.9 billion in “implied professional forma enterprise worth,” with an fairness worth of $3.4 billion at closing. Along with Pony, Luminar can be working with Airbus, Volvo, Audi, and Toyota Analysis Institute.
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