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Autonomous Driving Startup Pony.ai Raises $112 Million in Funding

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【Summary】Autonomous driving startup Pony.ai said that it has raised an $112 million in early-stage funding round in an effort to pull out in front of many well-funded rivals working on self-driving technology.

Original Eric Walz    Jan 17, 2018 11:53 AM PT
Autonomous Driving Startup Pony.ai Raises $112 Million in Funding

FREMONT, Calif., — Autonomous driving startup Pony.ai said that it has raised an $112 million in early-stage funding round in an effort to pull out in front of many well-funded rivals working on self-driving technology.

The Series A round was jointly led by Morningside Ventures and Legend Capital. Seed round lead investor Sequoia China and IDG Capital also participated in the round. Additional investors include Hongtai Capital, Legend Star, Puhua Capital, Polaris Capital, DCM Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Silicon Valley Future Capital and others.

"We are excited and honored to welcome our new group of investors to the team and are grateful for their support!" says co-founder and CEO, James Peng. "Autonomous driving has the potential to bring about massive benefits to society, and we hope to work closely with our outstanding investors to realize this future."

Co-founder and CTO, Tiancheng Lou, adds: "We very much look forward to working with our investors to achieve our mission of bringing the safest and the most reliable autonomous driving technology to market!"

Founded in December of 2016, Pony.ai is building level 4 autonomy technology, a grade of self-driving car technology that delivers "fully autonomous" navigation. The company's mission is to build the safest and most reliable autonomous driving technology.  "Instead of focusing on a specific module of autonomous vehicles, our focus is to remodel a car's software and hardware systems to transform it into a self-driving vehicle." Pony ai co-founder Leo Wang told FutureCar last year.

"From the technology perspective, we are aiming for level-4 autonomy, and have mainly adopted the sensor fusion technology with a focus on LiDAR. We are now proceeding our research and development in both China and U.S. right now." Wang said at the time.

Pony ai co-founder Leo Wang revealed that their team was expanding quickly, with two offices already built in Beijing and Silicon Valley.

The funding round has attracted much interest in Silicon Valley, as Pony.ai is not very well known yet and has been quietly operating in stealth mode.

According to Wang, the majority of the team members were ex-Google or ex-Baidu engineers, who not only have years of industrial experience, but also a deep passion for self-driving cars.

The company's CTO Lou Tiancheng is the major founder of Pony.ai. Tiancheng remains quite low-key. Often more commonly known by his handle 'ACRush', Dr. Lou was once the senior engineer of Baidu's self-driving car program, and also a very famous coder within the tech circles —a two-time winner of Google Code Jam in 2008 and 2009.

The company first started testing self-driving cars on San Francisco Bay area roads following state approval in June, with a number of testing videos released in October show that the technology is being developed quickly.

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