Pony.ai, a Chinese-based autonomous car startup company, is preparing to receive funds from Kunlun, a Chinese game publisher. Kunlun has also backed other companies like Mucisal.ly, Inke, Grindr, and Qudian and intend to invest around $50 million in Pony.ai, owning about 3% of the company.
Pony.ai confirmed to VentureBeat in an email that the capital contributes to its pre-B financing round. The company previously raked in $102 million last July from lead investors ClearVue Partners and Eight Roads (Fidelity International Limited’s investment arm), bringing its total raised to $214 million and bringing its valuation to over $1 billion.
Since last January, Pony.ai has tripled its headcount, conducted pilot tests in the Bay Area and China, and rolled out autonomous cars in Guangzhou (the site of its Chinese headquarters) that have given thousands of rides. It’s also secured an autonomous vehicle testing license in the city — only the second granted by the government — by logging more than 3,107 miles, demonstrating 39 capabilities across six categories of tests, and completing 10 days of “holistic” safety and operations evaluations.
CEO James Peng, the former Chief Architect at Chinese search engine Baidu, Co-Founded Pony.ai in 2016 with Tiancheng Lou, who worked at Google X’s autonomous car project before it was spun off into Waymo. The pair aims to build level 4 autonomous cars — cars that can operate without human oversight under select conditions, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers — for “predictable” environments, such as industrial parks, college campuses, and small towns, with a tentative deployment window of 2-3 years from now.
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