Autonomous-driving companies Pony.ai and Toyota are teaming up for the seamless production of a “fully driverless robotaxis.”
Toyota has invested millions in Pony.ai since its partnership in 2019 to develop self-driving. Pony.ai touts that it is the first and only autonomous company to receive a city-level permit to test driverless vehicles in Shenzhen and a permit for driverless robotaxis in Guangzhou. It is one of only two companies to receive the same permit in Beijing.
“The Chinese market is growing at an unprecedented pace. Toyota will also work together as a group to reform how we work and think to survive in China,” said Toyota China CEO Tatsro Ueda in a release.
Last month, Toyota also said it was accelerating plans to design and develop “smart cockpits” to enhance user experience and improve safety features to fit the Chinese market better.
The investment follows Toyota’s move to pump about $400 million into Pony back in 2020. Toyota said that it will provide an unspecified number of EVs, while Pony will outfit them with autonomous driving tech and the firm’s “robotaxi network platform.”
Pony has raised more than a billion dollars since its founding in 2016. Things arguably haven’t gone smoothly throughout the self-driving developer’s lifetime.
In 2021, Pony kicked off driverless vehicle testing in California, only to see its permit suspended six months late. The same year, the company seemed to shrink its autonomous trucking ambitions when it consolidated its R&D teams and shed a couple of executives.
Pony isn’t alone in its trials. The entire autonomous vehicle industry, once a darling in the VC world, has gone through a consolidation that has seen numerous startups wither and disappear, particularly in the US.
The few that remain are small groups of well-funded companies that are either publicly traded or owned by large corporations.