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Pony.ai CEO Claims Autonomous Cars Coming to Public Roads in 5 Years

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【Summary】The real challenge to autonomous cars, claims the CEO, is from humans in the forms of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Nov 25, 2019 6:00 AM PT
Pony.ai CEO Claims Autonomous Cars Coming to Public Roads in 5 Years

Pony.ai is one of just hundreds of startups that are focusing on introducing autonomous technology for the future. The startup has two offices, one in China and the other in Silicon Valley, and is working with Toyota to help the Japanese automaker come out with a pilot test for self-driving vehicles that is reportedly coming out in the near future. James Peng, CEO and co-founder of Pony.ai, clearly knows what he's talking about when it comes to autonomous vehicles, which is why it's interesting that he said they'd be out within the next five years.

Autonomous Cars Coming In 5 Years

In an interview with CNBC, Peng claims that autonomous cars that will ferry passengers to work aren't that far away. "If I have to give a number, I'll probably say in five years," said Peng. "We'll definitely see a wide adoption of autonomous driving vehicles – fully autonomous driving vehicles – on the open roads."

With Peng having offices in both China and the U.S., it's only safe to assume he's referring to those two countries when he's talking about the rise of driverless cars. Besides partnering with Toyota, Pony.ai has also started working with Hyundai to come out with an on-demand vehicle service for individuals in Irvine, CA, claims the outlet. The driverless Hyundais are utilizing technology from Pony.ai to drive autonomously.

Numerous brands and automakers may be working on driverless cars, but Peng stated that Alphabet's Waymo is still the company to beat. That says a lot as General Motors, Audi, Toyota, Ford, and Volkswagen are throwing large amounts of money toward driverless tech. With Waymo in the lead, it's likely that the brand could be the first to bring out a mass-produced version of driverless vehicles.

Waymo Could Be First

Waymo is well on its way, as it recently started offering fully driverless robotaxi rides in Arizona. But Peng believes that autonomous technology is moving "slowly and steadily" because of the largest challenge to the technology: humans. Peng claims that "the biggest challenge is all of us."

"It's the other vehicles, it's the pedestrians and bicyclists on the road that behave, a lot of times, irrational," he said, stating that unpredictability is difficult for AI to, well, predict.

In regard to whether the U.S. is leading China or vice versa, Peng claims that the United States is still in the lead, while China is quickly catching up. Peng stated that he hasn't seen an effect of the trade war between the two countries on self-driving technology, but believes that it brings an "element of uncertainty" for companies and individuals that work for global companies. 

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