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Toyota Enters Partnership With Chinese Startup Pony.Ai for Autonomous Tech

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【Summary】The new partnership looks to be promising for both companies, as they’ve set their sights on coming out with a pilot in September that will see self-driving tech being driven around in Beijing and Shanghai.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Sep 02, 2019 5:45 AM PT
Toyota Enters Partnership With Chinese Startup Pony.Ai for Autonomous Tech

Partnerships between companies to work together on autonomous technology are becoming the norm. Nearly every major automaker has entered into partnerships to complete the autonomous aspect of the equation. Automakers have the vehicles, but techy startups have the technology and know-how when it comes to making a car drive itself. The latest partnership will see Toyota and Chinese startup Pony.ai work together to develop autonomous technology.

Pilot Coming As Soon As September
 
Vaguely, the two companies claim that the collaboration will "explore a variety of possibilities to provide safe mobility services for all." Other than that tidbit, which isn't exactly eye opening, there isn't a lot of information on what kind of technology these companies hope to introduce.
 
Bloomberg, citing a conversation with Toyota spokesman Maki Niimi, states that a pilot program will be launched later this September on Beijing and Shanghai's public roads. The pilot will utilize Toyota's Lexus RX that have Pony.ai's autonomous system.
 
While Pony.ai may seem like the company that has a lot more to gain from the partnership, it seems like it will be beneficial for both parties. The Chinese startup has been testing a fleet of self-driving vehicles in a pilot ride-sharing program in Guangzhou since 2018. The company claims it's the first in China to have a "robotaxi operation" that offers the general public an opportunity to ride in a driverless vehicle. Pony.ai may be doing the majority of its testing in China, but the company has obtained a self-driving permit to operate vehicles in California. So the likelihood of seeing autonomous Toyotas in America is very likely.

One Of Just Many
 
The partnership with Pony.ai is just one of many for Toyota. The largest automaker in the world, at least for the first few months of 2019, has been busy creating multiple partnerships with various companies. Toyota is working with Uber, SoftBank, NVIDIA, and more. The automaker is also testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in Europe .
 
If there's one puzzling thing about Toyota teaming up with Pony.ai, it's that Toyota also has its own in-house development program that's focusing on developing autonomous technology. If Toyota's working on its own systems, sensors, and software, why would it need to partner with a company that's doing the same thing? One could argue that Pony.ai has a lot more experience and has been focusing on self-driving tech a little longer.
 
Smaller startups have become crucial aspects of automakers. General Motors acquired Cruise, Drive.ai now belongs to Apple, Argo.ai enjoys all of the comforts that come from being owned by Ford, and more.
 
Toyota, as Bloomberg points out, is increasing the number of its investments in China by increasing its stake in transportation services and electrified cars. Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing company, recently received a $600 million investment from Toyota. Baidu's self-driving Apollo platform is also in Toyota's future

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