Robotaxi startup gains license in China, a self-driving technology company backed by Toyota Motor Corp, announced on Sunday that it had secured a taxi licence in China, allowing some of its self-driving vehicles to begin charging fares.

The company claimed to be the country’s first autonomous driving company.

The company said that it has been granted a licence to operate 100 self-driving vehicles in the Nansha neighbourhood of Guangzhou. was also granted permission to provide paid autonomous robotaxi services in Beijing last year, and has since began providing rides.

Rides are being offered on a trial basis in a much smaller, industrial zone in Beijing, according to a representative. will initially deploy those cars with safety drivers but expects to remove them “over the short to intermediate time frame,” it said.

The announcement comes at a time when a host of startups are pouring billions of dollars into autonomous technology, aiming to take an early lead in the future of mobility. has been testing its driverless technology on public highways in California’s Fremont and Milpitas, as well as Guangzhou and Beijing in China.

A slew of Chinese startups are competing for attention. Momenta and SAIC recently received formal authorisation for a testing of their robotaxi service in Shanghai’s Jiading neighbourhood, following a similar move by Nissan-baked Weride in Guangzhou.

In Shenzhen, Alibaba-backed AutoX is also testing robotaxis – observed by safety drivers – in a highly congested urban area with lots of pedestrian and moped traffic.

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