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Updated: 09/2018

China / Guangzhou , China / Website

04/2019 Series A
Automotive Transportation Artificial Intelligence
  • Pitch

    This startup is the first company to offer self-driving car rides to the general public in China.

  • Why

    • Safety concerns

      People have become increasingly concerned about self-driving cars after a couple of fatal accidents.

    • Hard-won test driving license

      It's hard to obtain a license to test self-driving cars on open roads in China.

  • Market

    US$500 billion

    Total revenue from autonomous vehicle sales and transport services is expected to exceed US$500 billion in China by 2030.

  • Product

    PonyAlpha is a self-driving system that transforms regular cars into Level 4 autonomous vehicles. Using camera-, radar- and lidar-based sensors,'s system ensures stable operation of vehicles in multiple environments and under any weather conditions. Other products include supporting systems Vehicle Control Center and Pony Human Interface (PonyHI).

  • Founders

  • Investors

  • Journey

    • 2016 - Founding of; built PonyBrain.

      • The Launch

        December, founded in Fremont, California.

      • Products and services

        December, the founding team had already built its first-generation autonomous driving system, PonyBrain, before the startup was founded.

        • An operating platform for autonomous driving, PonyBrain supports fast iteration and has better real-time performance, task scheduling and data transmission capabilities than the Robot Operating System, the robotics programming framework used by most autonomous driving companies to support self-driving.
    • 2017 - Set up Beijing office and China Headquarters; granted autonomous testing permit; completed first autonomous driving test.

      • Expansion

        March, opened Beijing office.

        April, rolled out first self-driving test car.

        • The prototype used a lidar-based sensor fusion system and could drive up to 50 km/h in autonomous mode.
        • The vehicle could not only identify items in the surrounding environment, e.g., traffic lights, pedestrians, etc., it could also precisely control its trajectory using real-time feedback.

        June, granted autonomous testing permit by the state of California.

        July, completed first fully autonomous driving demo.

        October, set up its China Headquarters in Nansha district, Guangzhou. 

        October, signed agreement with Guangzhou to perform driving tests in the Nansha district.

      • Key personnel

        August, Dr. Andrew Yao appointed chief advisor to 

        • Dr. Yao is a professor and the dean for the Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences at Tsinghua University. He is also a recipient of the Turing Award, which is commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize for computer science.
    • 2018 - Released PonyAlpha; 9-digit-USD Series A and A1 funding; established AI institute; launched autonomous fleet; opened its self-driving cars to the general public.

      • Products and services

        Q1, released second-generation self-driving system, which enabled vehicles to handle heavy rain and complex road conditions.

        September, released PonyAlpha, the third-generation self-driving system, as well as supporting systems Vehicle Control Center and PonyHI.

        • PonyAlpha was China’s first-ever product-ready autonomous vehicle system.
          • It featured improvements to its hardware and software over’s earlier generation systems. The stability of the system and its performance meant PonyAlpha was ready for large-scale application: in this case, sustaining a consumer ride-hailing fleet.
        • Vehicle Control Center enabled centralized management, tracking and dispatching of all vehicles in its fleet.
        • In-vehicle interface PonyHI enabled passengers to view on a screen vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians on the road as well as transportation infrastructure such as road signs or lane markings. It also allowed riders to follow what factors influenced moves and decisions the autonomous vehicle made.

        December, launched a WeChat mini-program allowing users to hail a self-driving taxi from a pre-set location in Nansha.

        • The car can travel to specific destinations set by
        • Currently, the service is open to only's employees and a few VIP users. The rides are free.
      • Expansion

        February, launched its autonomous fleet in the Nansha district in Guangzhou, offering fully self-driving car rides to the general public in China for the first time.

        February, signed a strategic agreement with Chinese carmaker Guangzhou Auto Group to cooperate on technological development, funding, pilot operation of autonomous vehicle fleets and feasible business models in future.

        May, established the Institute of Artificial Intelligence in Guangzhou, China.

        • Dr. Andrew Yao,’s chief advisor, teamed up with Dr. Erran Li, former Uber Advanced Technology Group technical lead, to lead both AI research related to autonomous driving and foundational AI research.

        June, secured T3 autonomous vehicle testing license in Beijing, the first startup to do so.

        • It took only ten days for to fulfill all the requirements for the T3, the highest-level license issued in China to date.
      • Fundings

        January, secured US$112 million of Series A funding co-led by Morningside Ventures and Legend Capital and joined by nine other venture firms: Comcast Ventures, IDG Capital, Polaris Capital Group, Sequoia Capital China, Aplus Capital, Legend Star, Puhua Capital, DCM Ventures and Silicon Valley Future Capital.

        July, secured US$102 million of Series A1 funding co-led by ClearVue Partners and Eight Roads Ventures China. New investors included Green Pine Capital Partners, China Merchants Capital, Redpoint China Ventures China, Adrian Cheng, and Delong Capital. Existing investors participating were Sequoia Capital China, Morningside Ventures, DCM Ventures and Aplus Capital.

        • Sequoia and Morningside took the opportunity to increase their share in 
        • The money would be used to accelerate's time to market.
    • Its autonomous ride-hailing fleet in Guangzhou has already given over 1,000 rides within a driving radius of roughly 30 sqm.

      In April 2019, Beijing Kunlun Tech Co., Ltd., announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary Kunlun Group Limited will be investing US$50 million in exchange for a 3% stake in

    • Release autonomous vehicle models that can be mass-produced in the next 2-3 years.

  • Business Model will partner with car makers to apply its technology to their vehicles. It also plans to use its technology for commuting within closed environments like industrial parks as well as for specific applications such as cartographic drawing. has launched a self-driving car fleet fitted with its technology that provides autonomous ride-hailing services on public roads in Nansha, a district in Guangzhou.

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