Chinese autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai has teamed up with Japanese car giant Toyota to collaborate on developing the next generation of mobility services to unlock a driverless future.  China is well known for innovation and willingness to work with other countries to form alliances leading better outcomes for the global society.

Pony.ai was founded by two former Baidu chief architect James Peng and Tiancheng Lou who previously worked on Google X’s autonomous car project in 2016 and has been piloting its robotaxi service in China.  The Guangzhou-based start-up obtained a robotaxi operation permit in California in June becoming one of the first two companies of Chinese origin to receive such a license.  Meanwhile, automotive giant Toyota announced a US$600 million investment in ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing and revealed they would work with Pony.ai to provide mobility services that are “safe for all”, with a tentative deployment window of 2-3 years from now. The two companies announced the tie-up ahead of the recent Shanghai World Artificial Intelligence Conference as Toyota aims to “become a mobility company firmly rooted in China", further enhancing China's reputation as world-leading innovators.

Pony.ai's self-driving cars have convinced high-profile investors to pour in $300 million, pushing the startup's valuation to $1.7 billion. (Courtesy of Pony.ai)

Earlier this year, Pony.ai attracted $50 million in pre-B financing from video game publisher Beijing Kunlun Wanwei, making it one of the most valuable autonomous driving start-ups in China on top of the $102 million from lead investors ClearVue Partners and Eight Roads bringing its total raised to roughly $300 million to take its valuation to a staggering $1.7 billion.  Driven by billions of dollars of investment, the autonomous driving sector has become one of the key segments in Artificial Intelligence, an industry where countries including China and the US compete for global leadership.

What Self Driving Cars See - www.trafficsafetystore.com

From the 48 self-driving companies that submitted data that was disclosed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles in February, almost a quarter of them either had their headquarters or main operating bases in China. Statistics also revealed that Pony.ai, the front runner among Chinese autonomous driving companies were going from strength to strength with drivers only having to intervene once every 1,022 miles.

The partnership between Pony.ai and Toyota could also accelerate the use of Blockchain in this sector with Toyota previously claiming to be spearheading an initiative to use Blockchain technology to create an open platform for users.  While this may have been initially focused on increasing transparency to reduce fraud and insurance costs, it's not too hard to imagine driving data and metrics being added to the Blockchain.

Reports suggest that self-driving vehicles and mobility services in the region are expected to be worth more than a colossal $500 billion by 2030 with the number of autonomous cars on public roads expected to reach 8 million.  Storing hundreds of billions of miles of driving data on the Blockchain could lead to the rapid development of safer, more reliable autonomous driving technology with China set to take Pole Position.  For more news on fantastic innovation coming out of China and stay on top of the latest developments in Blockchain, click here to visit the Dragon Blog.