The investment follows others made by the Japanese giant into new tech
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Japanese carmaker Toyota has invested big into an autonomous driving startup company with hopes of keeping up with rivals in the autonomous vehicle field, as reported by Reuters.

Autonomous driving startup Pony.ai has announced $701 million raised in funds for development, with $607 million of the sum coming from Toyota.

Pony.ai is Silicon Valley-based with origins in China, marking the investment as the biggest Toyota has ever made into a Chinese-background autonomous driving company.

The investment comes as one of many, as Toyota finds itself struggling to develop autonomous driving technology at the rate of its competitors.

Toyota has previously invested in SoftBank Corp and 'robotaxi' developer Uber. A $912 million investment was also made into Didi Chuxing – a Chinese ride-hailing company – in 2019.

Globally, carmakers are spending big on gathering autonomous driving technology. There have been 323 deals relating to autonomous cars in the industry in the last two years, amounting to a $22.1 billion spend globally.

Pony.ai is currently focused on reaching level four autonomy in its vehicles.

Level four means a vehicle is considered ‘highly autonomous’ and is able to negotiate most traffic scenarios.

By comparison, level zero provides no driver assistance while a level five vehicle is fully autonomous and capable of getting itself to a provided destination with no driver input.

Earlier this year, Toyota also invested $570 million into Californian aerospace company Joby Aviation which is in partnership with Uber to offer on-demand ‘sky taxis’ by 2023.