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Autonomous Driving Startup Pony.ai Receives $400 Million Investment from Toyota

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【Summary】Autonomous driving startup Pony.ai announced today it received a $400 million investment from Toyota. The investment will help to strengthen and expand its collaboration with Toyota on self-driving cars.

FutureCar Staff    Feb 26, 2020 3:45 PM PT
Autonomous Driving Startup Pony.ai Receives $400 Million Investment from Toyota
A self-driving Pony.ai sedan in Guangzhou, China on May 19, 2018. (Photo: Yang Yaohua, Imaginechina/AP)

Big money continues to flow to startups developing autonomous driving, despite the relatively slow progress on their wide-scale deployment. A day after announcing a new robotaxi pilot with the city of Fremont, California, autonomous driving startup Pony.ai announced another big investment from Toyota Motor Corporation.

Pony.ai announced today a $400 million investment from Toyota. The investment will help to strengthen and expand its collaboration with Toyota on self-driving cars. This latest investment raises Pony.ai's valuation to just over $3 billion.

With the new investment, Pony.ai and Toyota plan to accelerate the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles. In addition to co-developing autonomous driving technology, Pony.ai and Toyota will look beyond self-driving vehicles and explore additional mobility services.

The latest investment from Toyota is an extension of a previous partnership that was formed between Pony.ai and Toyota in August 2019 to develop self-driving technology for the global automaker.

Pony.ai's technology may eventually end up in Toyota production vehicles. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Pony.ai Chief Executive Officer James Peng said  "It will enable us to make the commercialization of autonomous-driving vehicles faster," Pony.ai said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. "We will put more money into building up the fleet."

The partnership is another example of an established automaker partnering with a tech company to speed up the development of driverless technology. U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co is working with Argo.ai on its autonomous driving development and General Motors purchased San Francisco-based Cruise in 2016 for more than $1 billion to jumpstart its own efforts.

Pony.ai is developing and refining its autonomous driving technology using a fleet of Lexus RX SUVs outfitted for self-driving with hardware and software developed by Pony.ai. Toyota required no exclusive rights to the technology and is open to Pony.ai partnering with other automakers, Peng told Bloomberg.

Pony.ai was founded in 2016 in Fremont, California with the goal to build the safest and most reliable solution for autonomous mobility. The company also has a second office in China.

Pony.ai has been testing its Robotaxi pilot service, PonyPilot since late 2018 in Guangzhou, China. Pony.ai was the first company to launch a Robotaxi operation and offer self-driving car rides to the general public in China. 

In November 2019, Pony.ai also became the first company to roll out a Robotaxi pilot service in Irvine, California. The company partnered with Hyundai to build a self-driving system for the South Korean automaker's vehicles, as well as with New York-based transportation startup Via with "BotRide'', an on-demand, autonomous taxi service operating on public roads in California. 

The BotRide service using Pony.ai's technology is currently underway in Irvine, California. It's the first-ever public robotaxi pilot in the state.    


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