According to individuals familiar with the matter, Pony.ai, an autonomous driving company co-located in the Silicon Valley, Beijing, and Guangzhou, is undergoing business adjustments. The firm’s Infrastructure and Data department has been downsized, including by dissolving a data team in Shanghai. Affected departments also include its mapping division, 36Kr reported on November 6. Meanwhile, Pony.ai is experiencing high-level personnel changes, such as the departure of Kelvin Chan, the head of an R&D center in California under the Infrastructure and Data department, and of Feng Yi, the mapping division leader also located in the US.
These changes are likely related to a letter from firm CEO Peng Jun to all employees on November 1. “Despite our conviction, in the next two to three years, Robotruck and POV [‘privately owned vehicle’ – sources say this is the firm’s L2++ project] will see large-scale market demand, and the large-scale commercialization of robotaxis is expected to be realized within five years. Before that, however, we must further improve efficiency, maintain sufficient flexibility and agility, and cope with market changes in the best state,” Peng wrote in the letter.
The letter pointed out that in order to further improve organizational efficiency, Pony.ai had decided to realize regional management of technical teams and set up a technical steering committee at the company level. “I feel that the company’s business between China and the United States may be made independent. Business in China and the United States and even Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in China will have their own priorities,” one employee said.
Regarding the matter, Pony.ai responded, “At present, the company is adjusting its business structure, which belongs to the normal personnel adjustment. Its financial situation is good and its business is running normally.”
According to the report, departments including Infrastructure and Data, Maps and other departments are mainly involved this time, but some employees disclosed that the scope of business adjustment might be expanded in the future.
The Infrastructure and Data department is important but not quite core at this stage, mainly providing tools and services for the development of autonomous driving systems, such as simulation platforms, data mining platforms, and data annotation systems. The team is distributed across Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, with a scale of less than 100 employees.
Founded in 2016, Pony.ai is the most valuable autonomous driving company in China at $8.5 billion. Capital institutions such as Sequoia Capital, IDG, 5Y Capital, Legend Capital, Toyota and FAW Group have all made investments, and its financing amount has exceeded $1.1 billion.
However, the autonomous driving sector is experiencing a cold winter. Argo AI, which has a total financing amount of $3.6 billion and is backed by Ford and Volkswagen, is shutting down. Aurora, another company, is reported that its chief executive officer laid out a range of cost-cutting and cash-generating options for it to respond to worsening market conditions.