Pony.ai, an autonomous vehicle company based in Silicon Valley, Beijing, and Guangzhou, declared on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, that the startup company has raised $462 million in a fresh funding round. The latest investment of the driving firm, Pony.ai was led by the leading Japanese car maker, Toyota Motor Corp. (Toyota) with separate funding of around $400 million.
The company was founded in December 2016 by James Peng and Lou Tiancheng who are the two former employees working as the developers for Baidu, Inc. (Baidu) in China’s Silicon Valley.
Toyota-led Latest Fundraising
The Japanese car manufacturer, Toyota, which has sold more than 10 million cars globally last year, has been investing in the self-driving vehicle and mobility services companies over the years. Pony.ai officials claimed that Toyota’s latest funding was its biggest investment in a Chinese autonomous driving company and with this latest fundraising, the market valuation of the three-year-old firm reached more than $3 billion.
Reuters reported the startup driving company, which is backed by Sequoia Capital China and Beijing Kunlun Tech Co., had not identified other investors of the latest funding round besides its key investor, Toyota.
Globally, the self-driving vehicle industry is already under intense competition since many world’s leading automobile companies, technology firms, start-ups, and investors such as Tesla, Inc., Alphabet Inc’s subsidiaries, Waymo and Uber have already made a huge capital into developing autonomous driving cars.
According to a data provider PitchBook, the total investment in autonomous driving vehicles globally has reached nearly $14.6 billion with as much as 323 deals despite the existing challenges of the high cost of the technologies. More than 1,400 self-driving vehicles are under the testing in many cities including California, Beijing, and Guangzhou from more than 80 companies.
Pony.ai’s Plan for Expansion with Toyota
A source told Reuters that the Toyota-led latest funding would support Pony.ai’s plan of the expansion in robot-taxi operations and technology development. The Chinese startup officials stated that they would focus on the development of “Level 4”, or fully autonomous standards, in which the car would be supported with the latest technologies to ensure effective handle of driving with no human support.
The officials added that Pony.ai, which has partnerships with automakers Hyundai and GAC, would explore “further possibilities on mobility services” with its key investor, Toyota. Meanwhile, Toyota has made an investment of $600 million in a Chinese ride-hailing giant, Didi Chuxing and flagged off a new joint venture to develop mobility services last year.
Besides this, Toyota has been making a huge investment in autonomous vehicle partnerships including a venture with the leading Japanese conglomerate group, SoftBank Corp. and extensive investment in a robot-taxi developer, Uber ATG.
Nevertheless, the Japanese carmaker is currently depending on in-house engineers for the technologies of its new venture and planning to launch its first autonomous driving vehicle this year. Despite a slightly lagging compared to rivals, Toyota and Pony.ai partnership would focus on the development of technology research to bring self-driving cars soon to market.
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