Pony.ai, an autonomous vehicle startup based in Silicon Valley and Guangzhou, China, is no longer able to test its vehicles in California after the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the company’s license due to “numerous” security violations. The news was first reported by TechCrunch†
The problem is that the safety driver workforce is not very safe drivers. The DMV said it found “numerous violations” in the driving records of the company’s safety drivers when it reviewed Pony.ai’s testing license. Pony.ai currently has 41 autonomous vehicles and 71 safety drivers registered on its California license.
“Due to the critical role of safety drivers in facilitating the safe testing of autonomous technology and the need for these drivers to have clean driving habits, as established by the RDW’s autonomous vehicle regulations, the RDW is revoking the permit, effective immediately,” a DMV spokesperson said.
This isn’t the first time Poiny.ai has come into contact with the California DMV, a state agency that operates one of the largest AV testing programs in the country. Last year, the company’s license to test self-driving vehicles — autonomous vehicles without safety drivers — was suspended after a reported vehicle collision in Fremont, California.
A Pony.ai spokesperson said the DMV revoked the license because three of its safety drivers had problematic driving records. †Pony.ai approaches the development of autonomous vehicle technology with safety as our foundation, and we are proud of our safety record,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Pony.ai has driven more than 6.8 million true autonomous miles with no injuries.”
This poses a serious hurdle to Pony’s commercial plans in the state. Shortly after receiving his driverless test license last year, Pony.ai founder and CEO James Peng said: The edge that the company was also seeking approval to include those vehicles in its robotic taxi service in California. “We’re actually in the final stages of getting traveler approval,” he said.
Pony.ai was valued at $3 billion after a $400 million investment from Toyota last year. Since the end of 2018, the company has been testing autonomous vehicles in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Guangzhou, as well as in California’s Fremont and Irvine. Pony was recently licensed to operate its autonomous taxi service in China, making it the first company to receive the country’s approval.