Investments

Toyota Backs Chinese Autonomous Driving Startup Pony.ai With $400M

Toyota

Toyota has backed Chinese firm Pony.ai with a $400 million investment, according to the Financial Times.

The newest funding totals $462 million and puts a $3 billion value on the Chinese firm.

Toyota is using its own artificial intelligence (AI) division, known as the Toyota Research Institute, to develop its own self-driving technology. The carmaker, like other international automakers, does not have the ability to sell autonomous vehicles in China if it doesn’t find a local parent as the government has only granted digital map licenses to Chinese firms.

Toyota worked with Pony.ai last summer to engage in an experimental program for autonomous driving on Chinese roads. Pony.ai indicated on Monday that the newest investment would let the groups look into mobility services work beyond co-developing self-driving technology.

The funding comes after the Japanese automaker’s bevy of investments in ridesharing groups, with the inclusion of Didi Chuxing, Grab and Uber, intended to develop alliances beyond the traditional automotive space. The money also reportedly strengthens the recent efforts of Toyota to bolster its Chinese presence.

In separate news, plans for a hydrogen-powered city of the future close to Mt. Fuji were unveiled by Toyota at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January. The blueprint for the Woven City connected community is made up of a 175-acre site that was formerly a car factory. It is located at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan and will be powered fully by hydrogen fuel cells.

The Woven City will be a “living laboratory” for researchers and residents to develop and test new technologies, such as AI, robotics and autonomy. The site is being designed by known Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, who helped create landmark structures such as New York City’s 2 World Trade Center in Manhattan. Woven City will break ground in 2021 and be home to up to 2,000 people.

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