Pony.ai, The Chinese autonomous vehicle startup and the relative newcomer to the industry is valued at $ 5.3 billion after a new cash injection of $ 267 million.
The round was led by TIP, an innovation fund within the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board that focuses on late-stage venture and growth capital investments in companies that deliver disruptive technologies. Existing partners Fidelity China Special Situations PLC, 5Y Capital (formerly Morningside Venture Capital), ClearVue Partners and Eight Roads also participated in the round.
According to the company, the new funds will mainly be used for research and development.
Pony.ai has won over investors, OEMs and tier 1 suppliers during its four years of existence. Operating in China and California, the company has raised more than $ 1 billion since its inception, including $ 400 million from Toyota. Pony has several partnerships or collaborations with automakers and suppliers, including Bosch, Hyundai and Toyota.
Pony builds what is known as an agnostic virtual driver for all vehicle sizes, from small cars to large trucks, and works in both ridesharing and logistic (delivery) service networks. The company announced back in 2019 that it was working with OEMs and suppliers to apply its automated technology to the long-haul market. But it is perhaps best known for its robot axis endeavors.
The company has launched ridesharing and commuter pilots in Fremont and Irvine, California and Guangzhou, China. Last year, a fleet of Hyundai Kona electric, autonomous crossovers equipped with a self-propelled system from Pony.ai and Via's hail platform began to transport customers on public roads. The Robotaxi service called BotRide was not a driverless service as there was a driver behind the wheel at all times for human safety. The BotRide pilot project was completed in January 2020.
The company then began operating a public robotic taxi service called PonyPilot in the Irvine area. Pony shifted this robotic taxi service from moving people to parcels when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. In April, Pony.ai announced that it had partnered with the Yamibuy e-commerce platform to offer customers in Irvine an autonomous last-mile delivery service. The new delivery service was launched to provide additional capacity to cope with the surge in online orders triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pony.ai said at the time.