Monday | April 12, 2021

Autonomous car startup Pony.ai raises $267 million at an over $5.3 billion valuation

In an indication that enthusiasm for driverless vehicles hasn’t waned throughout the pandemic, Pony.ai at present raised $267 million in enterprise capital financing. The infusion brings the Guangzhou- and Fremont, California-based startup’s whole raised to over $1 billion at a valuation north of $5.3 billion (up from $3 billion as of February 2020).

Some specialists predict the pandemic will hasten the adoption of autonomous transportation applied sciences. Regardless of needing disinfection, driverless vehicles can probably reduce the danger of spreading illness. However surveys are blended, with one from Partners for Automated Vehicle Education displaying practically three in 4 People imagine autonomous vehicles aren’t prepared for prime time. Unsurprisingly, Motional itself disagrees with this assertion. One-fifth of respondents to its Shopper Mobility Report are “more interested” in autonomous autos than they have been earlier than the pandemic.

Pony.ai BotRide

Above: A Hyundai Kona electrical SUV outfitted with Pony,ai’s autonomous navigation tech.

Picture Credit score: Pony.ai

Former Baidu chief architect James Peng cofounded Pony.ai in 2016 with Tiancheng Lou, who labored at Google X’s autonomous automobile undertaking earlier than it was spun off into Waymo. The pair goals to construct stage 4 autonomous vehicles — capable of function with out human oversight underneath choose situations, as outlined by the Society of Automotive Engineers — for “predictable” environments equivalent to industrial parks, faculty campuses, and small cities, with a tentative deployment window of a number of years from now.

Pony’s full-stack platform, PonyAlpha, leverages lidars, radars, and cameras to maintain tabs on obstacles inside as much as 200 meters of its self-driving vehicles. It serves as the muse for the corporate’s totally autonomous vehicles and freight supply answer, which commenced testing in April 2019 and is deployed in check vehicles throughout the metropolis limits of Fremont and Beijing (along with Guangzhou).

Pony.ai is among the few corporations to have secured an autonomous car testing license in Beijing. Stateside, in California, it has obtained a robo-taxi operations allow from the California Public Utilities Fee. Solely three different corporations have such a license in California: AutoX, Waymo, and Zoox.

Final October, Pony.ai partnered with By way of and Hyundai to launch BotRide, Pony.ai’s second-ever public robo-taxi service after a pilot program (PonyPilot) in Nansha, China. BotRide allowed riders and carpoolers to hail autonomous Hyundai Kona electrical SUVs by means of apps developed in with By way of, sourcing from a fleet of 10 vehicles with human security drivers behind the wheel.

Pony.ai BotRide

Extra not too long ago, in August, Pony.ai inked an settlement with Bosch to “explore the future of automotive maintenance and repair for autonomous fleets.” Pony.ai and Bosch’s Automotive Aftermarket division in North America plan to develop and check fleet upkeep options for business robo-taxi applications; Pony.ai says it started piloting a upkeep program with Bosch within the San Francisco Bay Space in early July.

One in every of many alternatives within the autonomous driving house is the continual operation of a fleet and the discount of downtime. According to a 2017 McKinsey report, robo-taxis may scale back a fleet operator’s whole value of possession by 30% to 50% in contrast with private-vehicle possession and by about 70% in comparison with shared mobility, considerably disrupting the market. However robo-taxis will want vastly completely different upkeep infrastructure than vehicles, partially as a result of they could lack common monitoring; have solely minutes between passengers; and sport costly, delicate, and unconventional components like lidar sensors.

Pony.ai has competitors in Daimler, which in summer time 2018 obtained a allow from the Chinese language authorities that enables it to check self-driving vehicles powered by Baidu’s Apollo platform on public roads in Beijing. Individually, startup Optimus Trip built out a small driverless shuttle fleet in Brooklyn. Waymo, which has racked up greater than 20 million real-world miles in over 25 cities throughout the U.S. and billions of simulated miles, in November 2018 turned the primary firm to acquire a driverless automobile testing allow from the California Division of Motor Automobiles (DMV). Different rivals embrace Tesla, Aptiv, Might Mobility, Cruise, Aurora, Argo AI, Pronto.ai, and Nuro.

Thankfully for Pony.ai, it has partnerships with Chinese language state-owned auto group FAW and GAC Group (a Guangzhou-based car maker) to develop stage 4 robo-taxi autos and a joint collaboration with On Semiconductor to prototype picture sensing and processing applied sciences for machine imaginative and prescient. It’s additionally pushed over 1.5 million autonomous kilometers (or about 932,056 miles) as of year-end 2019, placing it inside hanging distance of Yandex (2 million miles) and Baidu (1.8 million miles).

Earlier and current traders in Pony.ai embrace online game writer Beijing Kunlun Wanwei, Sequoia Capital China, IDG Capital, and Legend Capital. The Ontario Lecturers’ Pension Plan Board’s Lecturers’ Innovation Platform led this newest spherical — a sequence C — with participation from Constancy China Particular Conditions PLC, 5Y Capital, Clearvue Companions, Eight Roads, and others.

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