Exclusive Toyota backed self-driving startup Pony.ai considers going public

Self-driving tech company Pony.ai, which is backed by Toyota Motor Corp, is considering to go public in the United States. Their chief executive told that this is to help fund its goal of commercializing driverless ride-hailing services.

This startup is planning to install its technology in hundreds of vehicles next year. It is active in US and China. Self-driving startups such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and General Motors Co’s Cruise have been racing to raise capital. There are many technological challenges and massive cost of producing self-driving cars for the industry to persuade global regulators. CEO James Peng said that for autonomous driving, it’s a big opportunity. But at the same time, it’s a long term, big opportunity. Hence, it requires a long lead way for spending, which means all the autonomous driving companies need to raise enough funding to support their operations.

Lawrence Steyn, vice chairman of investment banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co is tapped as chief financial officer to help accelerate its commercial growth and global deployment. Peng said that they are still debating and considering. It is just a different way of raising funds. Pony.ai, founded by former Google and Baidu Inc engineers Peng and Lou Tiancheng in 2016. More than $1 billion has been raised by them. In California’s Fremont, Guangzhou and Milpitas, they are conducting test drive without drivers. And this is ahead of the planned launch of a robotaxi service next year.

Robotaxi services with safety drivers behind the wheel is running in some parts of China and California. Peng stated that this has yielded diverse data which it could use to train its driver system. He added that the next big challenge is to reduce manufacturing costs for driverless vehicles, and to ensure safety in different environments.

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