Self-driving vehicle company Pony.ai forms a strategic joint venture with Sany Heavy Truck, a subsidiary of Chinese heavy equipment maker Sany Heavy Industry, to create a brand of self-driving trucks.
The plan is to combine Pony.ai’s “virtual driver” with Sany’s engineering prowess in heavy-duty truck building to build automotive-grade self-driving trucks with Level 4 autonomy, meaning the vehicles can drive themselves themselves under certain conditions without the need for a human to intervene. The joint venture’s self-driving truck product portfolio will include a mix of “new energy vehicles,” like electric trucks and diesel-powered trucks, the company said.
“This partnership between SANY and Pony.ai is the ultimate collaboration between the truck’s ‘body’ and ‘brain’ to mass-produce high-level autonomous trucks,” said Liang Linhe, President of Sany Heavy Truck. , in a statement.
The joint venture, which does not yet have a brand name, will begin small-scale deliveries of the robots this year and next, with mass production beginning in 2024, according to Pony. The company plans to reach an annual production of around 10,000 trucks within a few years.
Sany and Pony have already begun road testing the JV’s first prototype, which was built on Sany’s new EV truck platform, according to Pony. Like all future self-driving trucks from the joint venture, the prototype was powered by Pony’s self-driving controller, which is built on Nvidia’s Drive Orin self-driving toolkit.
The move signals that San Francisco-headquartered Pony.ai is investing more time and resources into its China operations. The startup, which also builds and deploys robotaxis, recently lost its license to deploy self-driving vehicles with driver behind the wheel in California. In December 2021, Pony also had its license suspended to test its driverless vehicles in California. In China, however, Pony recently obtained a taxi license to operate a commercial robotaxi service in Guangzhou and obtained a permit to provide driverless ride service to the public in Beijing.
In November last year, Pony.ai combined its research and development teams for self-driving trucks and passenger cars, prompting at least two key executives from its trucking team to leave in anger. Sources who spoke to TechCrunch at the time on condition of anonymity said U.S.-based trucking operations had been suspended, but testing continued in China.
Earlier this year, Pony also announced that it had formed another joint venture with Sinotrans, one of China’s leading logistics and freight forwarding companies, to build an intelligent logistics network featuring self-driving trucking technologies. Cyantron, as the JV is called, began operations in April.
Pony said in a statement Thursday that its strategy for unlocking robotrucking is to partner with top trucking and logistics companies to create a framework for future development, so we can expect to see more JVs in the future. ‘coming.