If you have a company that’s trying to make it big with autonomous vehicles, it’s probably not a good idea to have human safety drivers with driving violations. Tech Crunch reports that self-driving startup Pony.ai has lost its permit to test self-driving vehicles with drivers because the company’s safety drivers have too many driving violations.
Pony.ai is a Chinese startup that recently got a $400 million cash infusion from Toyota, giving the company a valuation of $8.5 billion, and was in the news at the end of 2021 after one of its self-driving cars collided with a lane divider in Fremont, California. This crash resulted in the state suspending its driverless testing permit. The state launched an investigation, while Pony.ai said it had logged over 750,000 miles in its vehicles since 2017.
This new revocation comes in the wake of that collision investigation. While looking into whether or not the state was going to reinstate their permit, the California DMV found that numerous safety drivers had driving violations. A safety driver is a person that’s supposed to monitor or take over and manually drive the vehicle in the event something goes wrong. Pony.ai told TechCrunch that three of its drivers had issues with their driving records, while the DMV said they “found numerous violations on the driving records of active Pony.ai safety drivers, noting that Pony had 41 autonomous test vehicles and 71 safety drivers on its permit.”
Pony.ai also said, “We are in the process of reviewing the DMV’s notice.” The company currently has no active permit to test in the state. Pony.ai is also one of the smaller players in the autonomous game, which is trying to tackle a dauntingly difficult and complex challenge, that may not even be possible. The odds that Pony.ai will do it just got a little longer.