Toyota invests $400 million in Pony.ai for Level 4 autonomous cars

Pony.ai is now a $3 billion company.

Pony.ai, an autonomous driving startup based in China, has received a total of $462 million in the latest funding round, led by Toyota Motor Corporation. The largest Japanese automaker has funded $400 million into Pony.ai, followed by Sequoia, KUNLUN, IDG Captial, and ClearVue Partners. The latest fundraising values the three-year-old driverless startup at $3 billion.

Toyota and Pony.ai collaboration go back to 2019 when Toyota worked with Pony.ai for its pilot program in which they boosted the development and deployment of self-governing vehicles using Toyota’s RX vehicles and Pony.ai’s driving framework. Both companies aim to explore safe mobility services involving driverless technology.

The pilot program announced by Pony.ai and Toyota will enable Pony.ai to explore more into its technology, including the company’s multi-sensor fusion technology that leverages reliable sensor data depending on different scenarios and operational foundations to expand further and improve the autonomous ride services. 

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In a glee for driverless cars, the two firms get into the association to build up the protected and progressively solid self-governing driving innovation all inclusively. The association is genuinely centered around giving significant cultural advantages by using the services of each firm.


The self-driving startup, Pony.ai, is the company that set the autonomous ride trend on fire first. The company used its autonomous ride-hailing operations to offer self-driving rides to the general public in China. The company has previously been testing robot taxis in Bejing, Guangzhou, Fremont, and Irvine. 

Level 4 Autonomous Cars

With the fast phase autonomous standards, Pony.ai is focusing on developing the self-driving cars with “SAE Level 4” autonomous excellence.

Level 4 cars are considered to be loaded with full automation and zero human interference. Though these cars will be designed to drive without human inputs, they might not be programmed to give driverless rides on the unmapped locations or severe weather conditions. 

Getting the cars automated at this level is not easy at all because no one else is doing it so and the market leader in the self-driving technology i.e., Tesla Autopilot ranks between Level 2 and 3. Still, Toyota and Pony.ai are doing whatever it takes to build a completely self-driving car. 

Pony.ai helping other companies in self-driving operations

Pony.ai has a relationship with Hyundai in building an electric fleet for customer services on public roads by providing its ride-hailing technology. This Robo-taxi service was backed by humans all the time. 

Moreover, Pony.ai also has a partnership with the Chinese GAC Group to launch a Level 4 autonomous driving car, Aion LX – a flagship luxury sports car of the GAC Aion series. 

Toyota and its interest in autonomous cars

This is not the first time that Toyota is investing in autonomous driving and mobility services. The company is in a partnership with SoftBank and established a joint venture MONET Technologies Corporation to provide safe and comfortable mobility services. 

Toyota is in a strategic partnership with Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (known as Uber ATG). Toyota provided funding of over $500 million in pursuit of self-driving vehicles with the ride-hailing company. 

Other companies in a row

Besides Toyota and Pony.ai, Tesla, Alphabet, Waymo, and Uber are also investing in self-driving developments. Since 2018, the total investment in autonomous cars has grown up to $14.6 billion globally. 

Self-driving vehicle by Pony.ai.
Self-driving vehicle run by Pony.ai. Photo: SCMP/Sarah Dai

Toyota – Pony.ai exclusive deal

The chief executive officer of Pony.ai, regarding the partnership with Toyota, said, “It will enable us to make the commercialization of autonomous-driving vehicles faster. We will put more money into building up the fleet.” 

Further, a spokesperson from Pony.ai said “After this round, Pony.ai is the second-most valuable independent autonomous driving company in the world. We are position[ing] ourselves as a global autonomous driving company, as we’re running a business in both the US and China.”

The autonomous car startup, Pony.ai, is based in Silicon Valley and Guangzhou, China. The company has been testing robot taxis since 2018. With PonyAlpha, full-stack hardware of Pony.ai, the company leverages lidars, radars, and cameras to keep an eye on everything that comes on the way of self-driving cars right up to 200 meters. The company has successfully secured an autonomous vehicle testing license in China, and for the US, the company has gained Robo-taxi operations permit. 

With this great Toyota – Pony.ai partnership, Toyota is planning to give limited services of the ride-hailing pilot during the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Featured image: Handout

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