China’s Kunlun Tech to invest $50m in autonomous driving startup Pony.ai

Shenzhen-listed Beijing Kunlun Tech has announced plans to invest $50 million in exchange for a 3 per cent stake in autonomous driving technology startup Pony.ai.

Pony.ai, co-founded by former Baidu executives, claims to be the first to offer fully self-driving car rides to the public in China. It did a soft launch of an autonomous ride-hailing fleet in Guangzhou in February 2018. It was also the first startup to secure an autonomous vehicle testing licence in Beijing.

“Autonomous driving has become an important branch of AI as the autonomous driving technology has greatly developed and is poised to disrupt the way people live and commute in the future,” Kunlun Tech said, according to a TechNode translation of a company statement in Chinese.

Pony.ai completed its Series A and A1 financing rounds in 2018, raising a total of $214 million. Backers included ClearVue Partners, Eight Roads, Sequoia Capital China, Morningside Ventures, DCM Ventures, Hongtai Capital, Green Pine Capital Partners, China Merchants Capital, Redpoint Ventures China, K11 founder Adrian Cheng and Delong Capital.

Pony.ai expects to grow its fleet from 20 to 100 vehicles in 2019, said the firm’s co-founder Jun Peng in an interview with CNBC earlier this year.

Instead of making its own cars, the company partners with local automobile groups like BYD Auto and GAC to provide AI solutions that turn their cars into driverless vehicles.

Beijing Kunlun Tech was established in 2008 and operates in the gaming industry.

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