Chinese autonomous driving startup Pony.ai and German megasupplier Bosch’s Automotive Aftermarket division in North America are teaming up to develop and test a maintenance and repair system for future AV fleets.
The partnership, announced Wednesday, capitalizes on Bosch’s Car Service network, which provides automotive repair and maintenance through independent operators. The network has more than 20,000 locations across the world, more than 1,000 of which are in North America.
As vehicles become more automated, fixed operations require service technicians with expertise in self-driving technology.
Bosch and Pony.ai started a pilot of their robotaxi fleet maintenance program at an undisclosed Bosch Car Service location in the San Francisco Bay area in July, according to the statement.
The companies are testing “the readiness and operational efficiency to steer a fully autonomous multiplatform fleet,” the statement said.
“High operational efficiency and fleet uptime is crucial to unlock the full economic potential of large-scale robotaxi fleets,” Matthias Tan, director of product and partnerships at Pony.ai, said in the statement. “As a fleet operator, Pony.ai needs partners that not only provide quality and service excellence but also the drive to adapt to our needs as we scale our fleet operations.”
“Being able to run multiple experiments with the Bosch Car Service network equips us to further leapfrog the robotaxi and autonomous vehicle industry,” Tan added.
Pony.ai, founded in 2016, has been looking to boost its stake in the self-driving industry and take on U.S. rivals such as Alphabet’s Waymo.
Toyota and Pony.ai partnered in 2019 to enable a deeper integration of the startup’s technology into the automaker’s vehicles. Toyota also invested $400 million in Pony.ai in February. The startup is valued at more than $3 billion.
Pony.ai also has partnered with Hyundai and ride-hailing service Via to launch a robotaxi service in Irvine, Calif.
The Pony.ai-Bosch network would not be the first in the industry. It follows AutoNation Inc.’s arrangement with Waymo, which initially focused on servicing Waymo’s self-driving vehicles and later expanded to include autonomous delivery of Toyota parts in the Phoenix area and transportation for AutoNation dealership customers.
AutoNation has developed a “Waymo certificate” on its wage grid for technicians who received training on automated-vehicle maintenance.