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Pony.Ai’s Self-Driving Trucks Approved for Convoy Tests in China

The company will test having one autonomous truck lead multiple others in a line as they drive along highways

Graham Hope

November 27, 2023

3 Min Read
Pony.ai’s Level 4 PonyTron trucks shown driving in a convoy.
Pony.ai

Self-driving company Pony.ai has made another breakthrough in China with the granting of a license to conduct “platooning” tests of its autonomous trucks on public roads.

The approval has come from the municipal government of the mega city of Guangzhou – where Pony.ai has a base – in the southern province of Guangdong.

Platooning is when a number of vehicles travel in convoy in a designated formation, which brings several benefits.

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In this instance, the vehicles in question are Pony.ai’s Level 4 PonyTron trucks, which will travel in what the company has described as a “1 + N” formation.

Essentially what this means is that one autonomous truck will lead multiple others in a line as they drive along highways. As five vehicles have initially been awarded permits, this means that four, in theory, could follow the leader, although images released by Pony.ai so far show just three trucks – in a “1 + 2” formation – out testing.

According to Pony.ai, the advantages of platooning include reduced operating costs and improved efficiency. 

As a post on the company’s WeChat account explained: “By eliminating the difference in braking time between front and rear vehicles and shortening the following distance, the vehicle in front can break the wind for the vehicle behind, effectively reducing air resistance, thereby reducing carbon emissions, achieving green travel, while improving road usage efficiency and alleviating road congestion.”

Related:Driverless Taxis Approved to Run in Beijing

This, in turn, can help in reducing the number of accidents.

The approval is the first of its type to be awarded in Guangzhou and follows the initial granting of a license in 2020 that saw Pony.ai become the first in the city to test autonomous trucks.

According to Pony.ai, the award of a permit that enables platooning recognizes the work the company has done in research and development and system optimization over the past three years.

And it underlines again how the firm, which also operates out of Fremont, California, has become a big player in China’s automated driving scene.

Its self-driving trucks have accrued a test mileage of more than 1.86 million miles and completed more than 379,000 miles in commercial operation, moving a cargo weight of nearly 40,000 tons.

It’s also made significant progress with its self-driving taxis.

Alongside Baidu, it became the first company to be approved to operate a driverless service in the capital, Beijing, and has also been afforded the same distinction in Guangzhou.

It’s forged partnerships with several key automakers, too, including Toyota, with whom it has developed the electric bZ4x self-driving taxi which is destined for mass production and was revealed at the China International Import Expo trade show early in November.

Related:First Driverless Taxi Permit Issued in Chinese Megacity

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About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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