Toyota's cheque pushes Pony.ai' s valuation to more than USD 3 billion and extends the partnership they formed last year to jointly develop autonomous driving technology and deploy mobility services.
Driverless-system providers are seeking tighter ties with OEMs to gain the integration of resources and fend off competitions from other startups such as Waymo in this nascent field. Especially in the U.S. market, rallying with Japan's biggest car maker is a vote of confidence for this three-year-old firm.
Not only with Toyota, Pony.ai has made several strategic agreements with global automotive giants. Last September, it reached a consensus with GAC Group to jointly launch the first level 4 autonomous driving vehicle Aion LX across nations. Another deal was in October, Pony.ai began cooperating with South Korean automaker Hyundai, to establish a self-driving system for pilot ride-sharing service BotRide, competing against Google's Waymo, which began its testing long before them. The fleet is coming in with 10 autonomous Hyundai electric KONA vehicles, with the aim of looking at consumer behavior, in order to optimize their experience.
Founded in 2016, the total size of Pony.ai's funding has reached USD 800 million, including the latest round of USD 462 million, previous investors also include Sequoia Capital China and IDG Capital.