Toyota plans to invest $400 million in self-driving start-up Ma Zhihang

Pony.ai, a self-driving start-up with technology research and development centers in Silicon Valley and Guangzhou, is deepening ties with Toyota, according tomedia CNET. The two companies announced a pilot program to test self-driving cars on public roads in cities in Beijing and Shanghai. The Japanese car giant plans to invest $400m in The Pony Bank, which is now valued at about $3bn.

Toyota plans to invest $400 million in self-driving start-up Ma Zhihang

Ma has been working with Toyota since 2019 to test public self-driving cars. With this new investment, they will be closer to carmakers and start-ups “co-developing” travel products such as “travel services.”

Since the end of 2018, Ma has been testing robotic taxis in Beijing and Guangzhou, as well as in Fremont and Irvine, California. The start-up claims to be the first company to start an autonomous ride business and provide self-driving car services to the Chinese public.

Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, has largely remained silent on its self-driving car plans. The Japanese company has released some information about the vehicles it tests and the types of sensors they use, but we see very few vehicles. Toyota plans to offer a limited pilot ride program in downtown Tokyo during the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Toyota plans to invest $400 million in self-driving start-up Ma Zhihang

The cars will be equipped with Toyota’s “Chauffeur” software, which Toyota has previously described as “focused on full autonomy, essentially emerging from the driving equation in all environments and within a restricted driving range.” Toyota has also launched a second product, the Guardian, which is essentially similar to Tesla Autopilot’s advanced driver assistance system. At present, however, neither of these products has been shown in any Toyota production vehicles.

The Silicon Valley-based Toyota Research Institute has been testing it for years at a site in Ottawa Lake, Michigan. In 2018, Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to invest $500 million in self-driving programs with Uber. As part of the agreement, the two companies will jointly develop self-driving cars.