Pony.ai has been testing robot taxis in Beijing and Guangzhou since late 2018 as well as in Fremont and Irvine, California. This start-up claims to be the first company to launch an autonomous ride-hailing operation and offer self-driving car rides to the general public in China. Toyota and Pony.ai announced a pilot program to test self-driving cars on public roads in two Chinese cities, Beijing and Shanghai. The Japanese auto giant plans to invest $400 million in
Pony.ai, valuing the startup at $3 billion. The two companies have been working together since 2019 on public autonomous vehicle testing. With this new investment, their relationship will become even closer, with the automaker and the startup “co-developing” mobility products like “mobility services.” The cars will be equipped with Toyota’s “Chauffeur” software, which the automaker has previously described as “focused on full autonomy, where the human is essentially removed from the driving equation, either completely in all environments, or within a restricted driving domain.” Toyota has a second product called “Guardian,” which is essentially an advanced driver-assist system akin to Tesla’s Autopilot. Neither is being offered in any production car today.