In the battle to be the first automatic car distributor, Toyota and Pony.ai have strengthened their already-existing partnership. To aid Pony.ai in its development, Toyota has granted the company $400m US dollars in order to boost its smart car development.
What Is Pony.ai?
Pony.ai is a relatively new kid on the block. They were founded in California back in 2016 and have since branched over to China. They claim to be the first to offer a “Robotaxi” to the public.
In 2018, Pony.ai began testing automated taxis in Beijing and California. They then partnered up with Toyota in 2019, and the two companies have been working side-by-side ever since.
Pony.ai has since put their technology out on the road. Back in November, Pony.ai launched BotRide, a taxi service that ran through into January. This involved a Hyundai KONA kitted out with Pony.ai’s latest self-driving tech, which users could hail using an app.
Now, with this investment from Toyota, Pony.ai hope to go even further. They’ve been valued at $3bn, so Toyota’s offering is definitely a huge boost to their financial health.
“It will enable us to make the commercialization of autonomous-driving vehicles faster,” said Pony.ai’s CEO James Peng. “We will put more money into building up the fleet.”
Why Is Toyota Interested?
Being one of the top car manufacturers in the world, it’s only natural that Toyota has also been working on its own automated cars. However, the details for Toyota’s cars haven’t been revealed as much as Pony.ai’s work.
We do know, however, that Toyota would like to roll out automated taxis for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to show off the new technology to the public.
Also, Pony.ai isn’t the only company Toyota is interested in. They’ve also helped fund Uber’s self-driving efforts back in 2018 as a move for the two companies to take down the automated car leader, Waymo.
As such, these payments are likely Toyota’s way of staying in the smart car business. With so many companies taking to the roads to be the first successful automated car business, Toyota needs as much support as it can get.
The best way it can do that is to create a business partnership with other companies that have shown promising developments in smart taxis. That way, Toyota can keep itself in the running against everyone else. Meanwhile, their money can help startups get their footing.
Smart Partnerships for Smarter Cars
The competition to get an automated taxi service to the general public is fierce, and the first one to achieve it will likely remain the dominant force for a long time. In light of companies such as Waymo pulling ahead, Toyota has teamed up with Pony.ai to help them get a foothold.
Do you think Toyota’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics taxi service is too ambitious? Let us know below.