Q&A With Autonomous Vehicle Leader, Pony.ai
Self-driving cars are a staple in today’s headlines. This rapidly changing industry is shaping the way we move around and get places in urban environments. One of the leaders in the field is Pony.ai — the first company to offer fully autonomous self-driving car rides to the general public in China. It also became the first startup to secure an autonomous vehicle testing license in Beijing. Located in Fremont’s innovation district, Pony.ai is making its own U.S. headlines, most recently about raising $102 million in funding after raising a similarly impressive round just months ago. We recently visited Pony.ai’s Fremont campus and met with co-founder Leo Wang and his team. Here are a few things we discussed about the company and the automotive industry trends.
- Considering Pony.ai’s recent funding rounds, what is the short-term and long-term vision for the company?
In the near term, Pony.ai will use this funding to continue to grow our team, support existing and new partnerships, and further accelerate our deployment. We are working on building the safest and most reliable self-driving technology by testing in a wide variety of challenging environments across the U.S. and China.
- How are autonomous car companies contributing to the future of the auto industry?
There is no doubt that autonomous technology will be one of the most defining aspects of the future auto industry, and that’s why autonomous vehicle companies are playing such a critical role in shaping that future. It’s such a uniquely challenging space because it sits at the intersection of so many others — primarily traditional auto (which is hardware-focused) and artificial intelligence software. Historically, these two sectors have been quite separate, so each company is bringing their own valuable expertise to the table, and there is a lot of important know-how to be contributed by all parties.
- Where do you see the autonomous vehicle industry in 10 to 15 years from now?
This year, we are starting to see early forms of commercialization in the form of passenger fleets and freight. In 10 to 15 years from now, I believe those forms will be much more widespread. I think much of our transportation sector will be powered by this technology and at that point, we will also have private ownership of self-driving vehicles.
- And finally, what factors led Pony.ai to choose Fremont as a business location in Silicon Valley?
As a team we had been in Silicon Valley for some time already, so it was natural for us to stay in the area. We have a lot of Fremont natives on the team, and though the City has just been recognized as the least stressed city in the U.S., we have been reaping the benefits for some time. We also liked Fremont specifically because the City has a great variety of driving environments, such as industrial commercial areas, residential suburbs, and busier downtown city driving. We were also looking for a space that was part-office and part-garage; we were able to find that here.