The self-driving tech firm Pony.ai which is supported by Toyota Motor Corp, is contemplating getting itself listed in the United States to generate money to finance further research of achieving its goal of commercializing driverless ride-hailing services, said the chief executive of the company, James Peng, in an interview to the news agency Reuters .
Peng said that the startup which currently operates in the United States as well as China, targets to install its technology in hundreds of vehicles next year and then in thousands of vehicles in 2024-25.
With the global auto industry preparing to scale up operations, there were reports about a number of self-driving startups such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and General Motors Co’s Cruise also planning to quickly raise capital.
The auto industry still needs to convince global regulators as well as the public about the safety of full automation, in addition to the time that would be required for addressing technological challenges and the huge cost of developing and commercially making self-driving cars.
“For autonomous driving, it’s a big opportunity. But at the same time, it’s a long term, big opportunity,” Peng said in an interview with Reuters.
“So it requires a long lead way for spending. That means all the autonomous driving companies need to raise enough funding to support their operations,” he said.
The company had recruited Lawrence Steyn, vice chairman of investment banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co, Pony.ai said on Friday. Steyn has been made the chief financial officer with the responsibility of helping to “accelerate its commercial growth and global deployment”.
“We’re still debating and considering,” said Peng, when asked about the time frame for a public share sale. “It’s just a different way of raising funds,” he added.
In 2016, former Google and Baidu Inc engineers Peng and Lou Tiancheng founded Pony.ai. The startup was valued at $5.3 billion as of late last year during funding rounds in which it so far has raised more than $1 billion, including $462 million from Toyota.
Prior to the planned launch of a robotaxi service next year, the company had started testing its driverless technology on public roads in California’s Fremont and Milpitas earlier this month. It has also been testing driverless vehicles in Guangzhou, China.
In some parts of China, as well as in Irvine, Californiam a fleet of robotaxi services that had safety drivers behind the wheel has been operated by the company. Those tests have provided the company with diverse data which the company can now use for training its driver system and make use of the deep talent pool oin the US as well as in China.
He said the next big challenge is to reduce manufacturing costs for driverless vehicles while expanding into more cities and regions and ensuring safety in different environments
(Adapted from Rreuters.com)