Autonomous car startup Pony.ai launches PonyPilot, a pilot ride-hailing service for its employees within a 50 square kilometer area in Guangzhou, China (Kyle Wiggers/VentureBeat)

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Guangzhou, China-based self-driving startup Pony.ai is joining an exclusive club of companies that have launched autonomous ride-hailing programs. At this year’s Shanghai Auto Show, it took the wraps off of PonyPilot, a test project for “product-ready” driverless cars within a geofenced area in Guangzhou. It’s currently available to Pony.ai employees and “select affiliates” by invitation only, and CEO James Peng says it’s the culmination of years of continuous testing in the city’s Nansha district.

“We could see the enormous AI wave on the horizon, and [we] had always wanted to leverage this to create something that would truly deliver value to people’s lives everywhere,” said Peng in a statement.

Pony.ai says that PonyPilot covers roughly 50 square kilometers​ of central Nansha, including commercial plazas, office buildings, landmark hotels, libraries, and residential complexes. Riders are able to hail cars at any predetermined point with a smartphone app available through WeChat, and travel using point-to-point dynamic routing to any other predetermined point within the area. During rides, passengers can follow their vehicle’s location and driving decisions through mounted in-cabin dashboards.

The cars benefit from Pony.ai’s improved full-stack platform, PonyAlpha, which boasts increased sensor coverage provided by additional lidars, radars, and cameras. The