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Self-Driving Tech Company Pony.ai Considers Going Public

Pony.ai, a self-driving tech firm backed by Toyota, is mulling going public to help finance its goal of commercializing driverless ride-hailing, Reuters reported on Friday (June 25).

The company, which operates in China and the U.S., hopes to install its technology in hundreds of vehicles in 2022, with that number increasing to tens of thousands by 2025, said CEO James Peng in an interview with Reuters.

Peng said the company was “still debating and considering” the timeframe for going public.

“Self-driving startups such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and General Motors Co’s Cruise have been racing to raise capital as the industry prepares to scale up operations,” the report noted. “Still, beyond the time taken to address technological challenges and the massive cost of producing self-driving cars, the industry still has to persuade global regulators as well as the public as to the safety of full automation.”

Pony.ai has operated robotaxi services — with safety drivers at the wheel — in parts of China and in Irvine, California. As Peng told Reuters, these trips have given the company data that it could use to train its driver system and find talent in both China and the U.S.

Now, the company needs to find a way to lower the cost of making driverless vehicles while also expanding into new areas and ensuring that its trips are safe in different environments, Peng said.

The company also announced on Friday (June 25) that it had named Lawrence Steyn, vice chairman of investment banking for J.P. Morgan Chase, as its CFO to “accelerate its commercial growth and global deployment.”

Founded in 2016 by former Google and Baidu engineers Peng and Lou Tinacheng, Pony.ai has raised more than $1 billion, including $100 million from Toyota earlier this year, putting the firm’s valuation at $5.3 billion.

In May, Pony.ai received permission from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test driverless cars on public roads in Fremont, Milpitas and Irvine. The permit — the eighth such issued in California — allows the company to test the vehicles on specified roads with speed limits under 45 mph.

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