Toyota, the world's second-largest automaker, has invested $400 million in a Chinese startup Pony.ai. Toyota is currently working with its technology competitors to join the race to develop autonomous vehicles and new mobile services.
Colt Colombo raised a total of $462 million in its latest funding round, bringing its valuation to $3 billion. As part of this financing round, Toyota acquired 13% shares of Toshiba and a seat on the board of directors.
Over the past two years, the Japanese automaker has made a series of investments in service companies such as Uber, China's Didi Chuxing and Grab in Southeast Asia to move beyond the traditional car industry.
Consulting firm McKinsey believes that China has the potential to become the world's largest market for self-driving cars.
Before the recent outbreak of new coronavirus pneumonia led to supply chain disruptions, Toyota bucked the trend and expanded sales in China amid a sharp downturn in the Chinese car market. The Japanese company also benefited from the weakening of Japan-China relations. At present, because of the escalating trade dispute between the United States and China, relations between the two Asian neighbors, Japan and China, are closer than ever.
Toyota is developing its own autonomous driving technology through its artificial intelligence division, Toyota Research Institute. But like other international automakers, unless Toyota has partnerships with local Chinese companies, it cannot sell independently driven cars in China because the Chinese government only licenses digital cards to domestic companies.
Toyota and Xiaoma Zhixing teamed up last summer to launch a pilot project for autonomous roads in China. Xiaoma said Wednesday that in addition to jointly developing autonomous driving technology, the latest round of investment will allow the two companies to explore cooperation in travel services.
Although founded in Silicon Valley, Xiaoma is now headquartered in the United States and China, and nearly half of its 600 employees are based in China. Xiaoma's presence in China allows it to tap into China's wealth of engineering talent and leverage China's pioneering position in the regulation and testing of autonomous vehicles.
Xiaoma Zhihang has established cooperative relationships with some well-known Chinese car manufacturers, such as Hyundai Motor of South Korea and the state-owned GAC in China. Xiaoma Zhixing is currently cooperating with GAC Group in the development of Level 4 driverless cars, that is, highly automated driverless cars.
In 2018, Xiaoma Zhixing launched a Robotaxi fleet pilot project in Guangzhou, where it is headquartered in China, and was licensed to test vehicles in Beijing, Shanghai and California. The company has raised funds from leading Chinese venture capital firms such as Sequoia Capital China and Legend Capital.