Driving Forward: Pony and Toyota Unite to Create Fully Driverless Robotaxis

Explore the dynamic partnership between Pony.ai and Toyota as they collaborate to revolutionize transportation with their vision of 'fully driverless

Autonomous driving company Pony.ai has joined forces with Toyota to work towards the ambitious goal of producing a fleet of "fully driverless robotaxis." This collaboration is set to commence this year and will receive a substantial infusion of approximately $139 million in funding from GAC Toyota Motor Co., a partnership between Toyota China and GAC, a state-owned Chinese automaker.

This financial commitment follows Toyota's earlier investment of around $400 million in Pony.ai back in 2020. Looking ahead, Toyota plans to provide Pony.ai with an undisclosed number of its electric vehicles (EVs), which will then be equipped by Pony.ai with their cutting-edge autonomous driving technology along with their proprietary "robotaxi network platform."

Although $139 million might seem noteworthy, Pony.ai has managed to secure over a billion dollars in funding since its establishment in 2016. However, the journey for this self-driving technology developer hasn't been entirely smooth.

Pony.ai initiated driverless vehicle testing in California in 2021, only to have their permit suspended six months later. In the same year, the company appeared to narrow its focus on autonomous trucking by consolidating its research and development teams and letting go of a couple of its executives. The subsequent year saw Pony.ai recalling its autonomous driving software and pursuing legal action against two former employees who were accused of taking proprietary information when they left to establish their own startup named Qingtian Truck. Interestingly, around the same time, Pony.ai declared a valuation of $8.5 billion, and there has been no further update on its valuation since then.

Pony.ai isn't alone in encountering challenges. The entire autonomous vehicle industry, once highly favored by venture capitalists, has witnessed consolidation that led to the downfall of numerous startups, particularly in the United States. The survivors, a select group of well-funded companies either publicly traded or owned by major corporations, are gradually expanding their commercial operations, albeit at a more gradual pace than initially projected.