Toyota, Pony.ai plan to invest a total of more than RMB 1 billion to set up a joint venture within the year, which will launch robotaxi cars built on Toyota’s pure electric vehicles.
Japanese auto giant Toyota plans to set up a joint venture with Pony.ai, the Chinese autonomous driving startup it is backing, in a bid to up its bet on the robotaxi business.
Toyota, Pony.ai, and GAC-Toyota signed an agreement today with plans to jointly invest more than RMB 1 billion ($140 million) to set up the joint venture within the year, according to a press release today.
The joint venture will launch robotaxi vehicles based on Toyota-branded all-electric vehicles produced by GAC-Toyota, equipped with the PCS (Pre-Collision Safety System) feature of Toyota’s T-Pilot driver-assistance system, according to the release.
The joint venture will also take advantage of Toyota’s TPS (Toyota Production System) and utilize GAC-Toyota’s dealership system to help Pony.ai advance fully unmanned autonomous driving.
Toyota and Pony.ai began a strategic partnership in 2019 to jointly promote the development of high-level autonomous vehicles for mobile mobility services in China.
To date, about 200 robotaxi, modeled after the Lexus RX450h and Toyota Sienna, have been used to provide autonomous driving mobility services by Pony.ai’s platform in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Shanghai.
In Beijing and Guangzhou, Pony.ai has obtained a license to operate fully unmanned autonomous driving trials, according to the press release.
In addition to advancing the commercial application of high-level autonomous driving technology at the planned joint venture, Toyota will also explore promoting the mass production of robotaxi vehicles, the Japanese carmaker said.
Founded in late 2016, Pony.ai has set up R&D centers in Silicon Valley, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai, where it has launched robotaxi operations.
In late 2019, Nio Capital said it invested in Pony.ai when it announced the completion of a fundraising round of more than $200 million. In February 2020, Pony.ai announced it had raised $400 million from Toyota.
Pony.ai launched robotaxi app PonyPilot in December 2018 and received a license to operate robotaxi services for a fee in November 2021 in Beijing.
On March 17, Pony.ai announced that it had been granted a license in Beijing to operate unmanned in-vehicle robotaxi services within a 60-square-kilometer area of the Yizhuang Economic Development Zone.
On April 26, the company said it was licensed to provide robotaxi services without in-vehicle safety officers in Guangzhou, when it put 17 robotaxis into operation.
On May 29, Pony.ai said it received permission in Shenzhen to conduct robotaxi services in the city’s core area without safety officers inside the vehicles.
($1 = RMB 7.1812)