California halts Pony.ai's driverless testing permit after accident

  • A California regulator on Monday said it has suspended a driverless testing permit for startup technology firm Pony.ai following an accident — the first time it has issued such a suspension.
  • On Oct. 28, a Pony.ai vehicle operating in autonomous mode hit a road center divider and a traffic sign in Fremont after turning right, showed the technology firm's accident report.
  • "We are cooperating with the California DMV and look forward to addressing and resolving any concerns they may have," Pony.ai said in a statement.

A California regulator on Monday said it has suspended a driverless testing permit for startup technology firm Pony.ai following an accident — the first time it has issued such a suspension.

On Oct. 28, a Pony.ai vehicle operating in autonomous mode hit a road center divider and a traffic sign in Fremont after turning right, showed the technology firm's accident report filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

"There were no injuries and no other vehicles involved," the company, backed by Japan's Toyota Motor, said in the report.

Accidents during driverless testing are not uncommon. It was unclear what aspect of this incident prompted the suspension.

"On Nov. 19, the DMV notified Pony.ai that the department is suspending its driverless testing permit, effective immediately, following a reported solo collision in Fremont, California, on Oct. 28," the DMV said in a statement.

The regulator said Pony.ai has 10 Hyundai Motor Kona electric vehicles registered under its driverless testing permit, and that the suspension does not impact Pony.ai's permit for testing with a safety driver.

The suspension comes only six months after Pony.ai became the eighth company to receive a driverless testing permit in California, joining the likes of Alphabet unit Waymo as well as Cruise, backed by General Motors.

"We are cooperating with the California DMV and look forward to addressing and resolving any concerns they may have," Pony.ai said in a statement. Safety is the "foundation" of its autonomous vehicle technology, the firm said.

"The majority of Pony.ai's testing has been, and will continue to be in the near-term, drivered autonomous testing," said the company, which operates in the United States and China.

Pony.ai earlier this year suspended plans for a New York stock listing, sources told Reuters. The firm could not gain assurances from Chinese authorities that it would not become a target of increased regulatory action against Chinese technology companies over management and use of user data, sources said. 

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