A passenger uses a robotaxi service app in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)

Ontime, a mobile transportation platform headquartered in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, has launched operations consisting of manned and automatic vehicles in Guangzhou, becoming the first travel platform in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to realize dual operation of robotaxis.

Ontime offers robotaxi service with more than 60 autonomous vehicles in Nansha, according to the company

Dual operation, which refers to simultaneous operation of two types of transports — manned online car hailing and autonomous robotaxi service — covers the entire area of the city's Nansha district, part of the China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

Ontime offers robotaxi service with more than 60 autonomous vehicles in Nansha, according to the company.

"The dual operation mode has started to undertake the real daily travel needs of customers, marking an important step forward in the commercialization of robotaxis," said Han Feng, chief operating officer of Ontime.

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Users can open the ride-hailing service on the home page of Ontime's app and input the pickup and drop-off locations as usual, according to Han.

"The platform will intelligently match manned or autonomous vehicles for users to provide services according to multidimensional optimization principles such as waiting time and travel distance," Han said.

Based on users' actual travel scenarios, boarding and alighting locations and other operational data, Ontime has prospectively laid out offline stations for robotaxi operation. Nearly 100 such stations have been set up in urban areas of Guangzhou to optimize robotaxi services for passengers.

Since launching ride-hailing services in June 2019, the company, jointly founded by GAC Group and other investors, has offered services in six cities in Guangdong and Changsha of Hunan province, with a market penetration rate in core cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area exceeding 30 percent, according to the company.

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In an earlier interview with China Daily, Feng Xingya, president of GAC Group, said a large-scale commercial operation fleet of driverless vehicles will be built in the future, creating a new situation for the commercial operation of automatic transport in the Greater Bay Area.

Ontime completed round A financing of more than 1 billion yuan ($138 million) in April this year, attracting investors of leading domestic autonomous driving companies including WeRide and Pony.ai.

After the financing round, the company said it would accelerate the commercial use of robotaxis by building an autonomous driving technology system involved in the development of operations, data and supervision platforms, aiming to become a leader in the field.

Launching the robotaxi service was in line with the local government's push to accelerate commercial use of autonomous vehicles.

In September, local authorities said 260 autonomous vehicles including 50 autonomous buses and 210 more self-driving cars will be put into operation on public roads in Guangzhou by the end of 2023, serving no less than 1 million passenger trips.

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The operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads in Guangzhou was among the first 18 pilot projects for intelligent transportation approved on Sept 16 by the Ministry of Transport.