China’s driverless vehicles taking fast lane to success

While automakers are gradually advancing from Level 2 functions, autonomous driving companies are placing a greater emphasis on driverless vehicles, classified as Level 4 or above, although some tailor Level 2 systems for car manufacturers as well. Despite their ambitions, they are less widely known among the public than the carmakers who sell such vehicles.

“Compared with driving-assist features found in private cars, autonomous driving will start from designated zones and gradually expand,” said Thomas Fang, a partner at McKinsey’s Shanghai office.

One example is self-driving startup Pony.ai, which is backed by Toyota, the world’s largest vehicle maker by sales.

Pony.ai runs fleets of driverless taxis in designated zones in four of China’s tier-one cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou in Guangdong province. In Shenzhen, it offers 200 such rides a day.

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