August 1, 2022
Self-driving tech company Pony.ai is to launch an autonomous truck brand in partnership with Chinese firm Sany Heavy Truck.
The joint venture plans to combine Pony.ai’s ‘virtual driver’ with Sany’s heavy duty truck expertise to produce vehicles for the Chinese market with level four capability, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. That means they can drive themselves, with no human intervention required.
Both the timeframe and scale of the project appear to be ambitious.
According to a statement released to announce the news, the JV will see small-scale deliveries of the robotrucks start later this year, with mass production in 2024, and within a few years, annual production reaching 10,000.
Both electric trucks and those powered by diesel plan to be developed. The first prototype has been built on SANY’s new EV platform and has been tested on the road.
Although fossil fuel trucks will follow, the companies say they aim to increase the proportion of what they are terming ‘new energy vehicles’ as development evolves.
The prototype’s automated functionality was delivered by Pony’s Autonomous Driving Controller (ADC), which is built on Nvidia’s Drive Orin self-driving tech. The company announced in June that the ADC was ready for mass production.
No brand name has yet been announced, but the opportunity presented by the project is obvious. In 2021 alone, heavy truck sales in China exceeded 1.3 million units.
And the partners claim the JV will bring significant benefits for the environment, with the increase in electric trucks having the potential to reduce carbon emissions by more than a million tons by 2030.
“This partnership between Sany and Pony.ai is the ultimate collaboration between truck ‘body’ and truck ‘brain’ and thus makes it possible to mass produce high-level autonomous trucks,” said Liang Linhe, chairman of Sany Heavy Truck. “This partnership will advance autonomous trucking and logistics well into the future and will lead to a safer, more efficient, intelligent logistics system.”
Pony, which has a base in Fremont, California, is becoming an increasingly influential player in China’s AV landscape.
Earlier this year it became the first autonomous driving company in China to receive a taxi license, which meant it could start charging for rides in its self-driving cabs in Guangzhou.
It has also been granted a permit to run its robotaxis in Beijing without a safety operator.
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