Toyota-backed self-driving startup Pony.ai plans to go public

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FREMONT, Calif., June 25 (Reuters) – Autonomous tech company Pony.ai, backed by Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), plans to go public in the United States to help fund its goal of commercializing limousine services driverless, its chief executive told Reuters.

The startup, active in the United States and China, plans to install its technology in hundreds of vehicles next year, reaching tens of thousands by 2024-2025, he said.

Stand-alone startups such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo (GOOGL.O) and General Motors Co’s Cruise (GM.N) have been scrambling to raise capital as the industry prepares to scale up operations. Read more

Yet beyond the time needed to address the technological challenges and the enormous cost of producing self-driving cars, the industry has yet to persuade global regulators as well as the safety public of full automation.

“For autonomous driving, it’s a big opportunity. But at the same time, it’s a big long-term opportunity,” CEO James Peng said in an interview with Reuters.

“So it takes a long way to go for spending. It means all autonomous driving companies have to raise enough funds to support their operations,” he said.

The comments come as Pony.ai said on Friday it brought in Lawrence Steyn, vice president of investment banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), as chief financial officer to help “accelerate its growth. commercialization and its worldwide deployment “.

“We are still debating and considering,” said Peng, when asked about the timing of a public sale of shares.

“It’s just a different way of fundraising.”

ROBOTAXI

Pony.ai, founded by former engineers at Google and Baidu Inc (9888.HK) Peng and Lou Tiancheng in 2016, has so far raised more than $ 1 billion, including $ 462 million from Toyota, valuing the startup at $ 5.3 billion at the end of last year. .

Earlier this month, he said he began driverless testing on public roads in Fremont and Milpitas, Calif. Ahead of the planned launch of a robotaxi service next year. He also tested driverless vehicles in Guangzhou, China.

The company has operated robotaxi services with safety drivers behind the wheel in parts of China, as well as Irvine, California. This produced various data that he could use to train his driver system and tap into a talent pool in the two countries, Peng said.

He said the next big challenge is to reduce manufacturing costs for driverless vehicles while expanding to more cities and regions and ensuring safety in different environments.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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