Pony.ai Express: New Autonomous Trucking Collaboration Powered by NVIDIA DRIVE Orin

China’s largest heavy-equipment manufacturer to work with self-driving company Pony.ai on purpose-built level 4 trucks, beginning production this year.
by Katie Burke

More than 160 years after the legendary Pony Express delivery service completed its first route, a new generation of “Pony”-emblazoned vehicles are taking an AI-powered approach to long-haul delivery.

Autonomous driving company Pony.ai announced today a partnership with SANY Heavy Truck (SANY), China’s largest heavy equipment manufacturer, to jointly develop level 4 autonomous trucks. The vehicles will run on the Pony.ai autonomous driving controller (ADC), built on NVIDIA DRIVE Orin.

The joint venture plans to produce a mixed fleet of new energy and internal combustion engine vehicles, with the goal of increasing the share of alternative powertrains over time.

Long-haul trucks play a vital role in the global economy. Around the world, companies delivered a total of 257 billion packages in 2021 — a number expected to nearly double in four years, according to Guidehouse consultancy.

The addressable market for trucking is substantial. In 2021 alone, heavy truck sales in China exceeded 1.3 million units, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported.

At the same time, persistent worker shortages are putting pressure on the industry, with drivers making up 25-30% of the total cost of long-haul trucking.

Companies are beginning to turn toward autonomous trucks to help ease these bottlenecks —  Guidehouse estimates that, by 2032, more than 1.2 million automated trucks and buses will be deployed worldwide each year, with more than half of those vehicles operating in China.

Pony.ai and SANY are working to deliver automated solutions even sooner, with small-scale deliveries beginning this year, and mass production planned for 2024. Within a few years, the venture will reach an annual production of around 10,000 trucks.

From Horsepower to AI Power

The new joint venture is able to achieve near-term deployment by building these autonomous trucks on the high-performance, automotive-grade NVIDIA DRIVE Orin system-on-a-chip.

In June, Pony.ai unveiled its latest generation ADC, designed for the low-latency and real-time deep neural network (DNN) performance necessary for safe autonomous driving. The AV platform includes both single and dual DRIVE Orin configurations, achieving 254 and 508 trillion operations per second (TOPS), respectively.

As a software-defined compute platform, DRIVE Orin is designed to handle large numbers of applications and DNNs simultaneously, while achieving systematic safety standards, to ensure safe, highly advanced intelligent driving.

With DRIVE Orin, Pony.ai and SANY’s autonomous trucks can seamlessly handle the demands of long-haul shipping, running around the clock.

Working Together for More Intelligent Delivery

Collaboration is a key driver behind deploying autonomous vehicles in the short term.

In addition to working with SANY, Pony.ai recently formed a joint venture with logistics platform provider Sinotrans, one of the largest logistics companies in China, to develop an intelligent logistics network.

By combining smart fleet management with software-defined vehicles, these joint ventures are poised to revolutionize delivery, creating a powerful standard and framework for future development in the industry.

And with NVIDIA DRIVE Orin at the core, these fleets are redefining horsepower for the long haul.