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Pony.ai, founded by autonomous driving pioneers from Google and Baidu, partners with Toyota on self-driving tests

Release Date:2019-08-28

The Chinese startup claims it has been testing its autonomous robotaxi service, PonyPilot, in Guangzhou since late last year.

By Song Jingli 

Guangzhou-headquartered startup Pony.ai announced on its website on Monday that it is teaming up with Japanese automaker Toyota for autonomous driving tests to accelerate the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Pony.ai was founded in 2016 by James Peng and Tiancheng Lou. Peng worked for Baidu as the chief architect of its autonomous driving division before working with Google, helping it develop its advertising systems. Lou also began his career at Google, working on autonomous vehicle technology at Google X which later became Waymo.

Toyota and Pony.ai will explore a variety of possibilities to provide safe mobility services for all, said the startup, without disclosing details.

It claims it has been testing its autonomous robotaxi service, PonyPilot, in Guangzhou since late last year. In June this year, Pony.ai obtained a robotaxi operation permit for California. The Guangzhou PonyPilot robotaxis are onlyavailable to Pony.ai employees and others with special invitation, according to the company’s website.

Pony.ai’s partnership announcement with Toyota comes after Baidu and WeRide, another Chinese autonomous driving startup founded by former Baidu executives, sped up commercializing its autonomous driving technologies.

Baidu began testing ten robotaxis in Changsha, the capital of Central China’s Hunan province earlier this month. WeRide formed a joint venture called WeRide RoboTaxi in Guangzhou with Baiyun Taxi, which is the largest taxi company in South China under state-owned Guangzhou Public Transport, and state-owned SCI (Guangzhou) Group, a real estate developer.

Toyota’s partnership with Pony.ai is one of several fronts on which the Japanese carmaker is testing out new mobility models. Toyota also has a newly formed collaboration with Didi, China’s largest ride-hailing platform, which involved an investment of USD 600 million from the company.

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