Autonomous vehicle company Pony.ai is entering into a strategic joint venture with Sany Heavy Truck, a subsidiary of Chinese heavy equipment manufacturer Sany Heavy Industry, to create an autonomous truck brand.
The plan is to combine Pony.ai’s ‘virtual driver’ with Sany’s engineering prowess in heavy-duty truck construction to build automotive-grade self-driving trucks with level 4 autonomy, meaning the vehicles can drive themselves in certain conditions without the need for anything. a human intervention is needed. The JV’s autonomous truck product portfolio will include a mix of “new energy vehicles,” such as 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 the ‘brain’ of the truck, thus making it possible to mass-produce autonomous trucks at a high level,” said Liang Linhe, president of Sany Heavy Truck, in a statement.
The JV, which is not yet branded, will start small-scale deliveries of the robot trucks this year and next, with mass production starting in 2024, according to Pony. The company expects to reach an annual production of about 10,000 trucks within a few years.
Sany and Pony have already started road testing of the first prototype of the JV, which Pony says is built on Sany’s new EV truck platform. Like all future JV autonomous trucks, the prototype was powered by Pony’s Autonomous Driving Controller, which is built on Nvidia’s Drive Orin self-driving toolkit.
The move indicates that Pony.ai, which is technically headquartered in San Francisco, is investing more time and resources in its operations in China. The startup, which also builds and deploys robotaxis, recently lost its license to deploy autonomous vehicles with a driver behind the wheel in California. By December 2021, Pony had also suspended its license to test its driverless vehicles in California. However, in China, Pony recently obtained a taxi license to operate a commercial robotic taxi service in Guangzhou and was granted a license to provide unmanned taxi rides to the public in Beijing.
Last November, Pony.ai had combined its R&D teams for self-driving trucks and passenger cars, prompting at least two key truck team executives to leave on a whim. Sources who spoke to londonbusinessblog.com at the time on condition of anonymity said the startup’s trucking operations in the US had been suspended but tests continued in China.
Earlier this year, Pony also announced that it had formed a new joint venture with Sinotrans, one of China’s leading logistics and freight forwarding companies, to build a smart logistics network with autonomous driving truck technologies. Cyantron, as the joint venture is called, launched in April.
Pony said in a statement Thursday that its strategy to unlock robot rucking is to partner with top transportation and logistics companies to create a framework for future development, so we should expect more JVs in the future.