Tesla’s partner Tencent said to plan driverless technology


HONG KONG • Tencent Holdings Ltd has developed its own autonomous driving system, according to people familiar with the matter, becoming the latest technology player to dive into a crowded field that could become a US$42 billion (RM177.24 billion) industry.

The social media giant intends to leverage its mapping and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to compete in a sector that’s attracted investment from the likes of Alphabet Inc’s Waymo as well as local rivals Baidu Inc and Alphabet, the people said, requesting not to be named because the matter is private.

It’s unclear how far the development effort has advanced though Tencent has a prototype and begun testing the system internally, the people said.

Tencent, whose now-ubiquitous WeChat service emerged from an internal development project, would be by far China’s biggest entrant into autonomous driving. While it bought about 5% of Tesla Inc in March and is a big backer of ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing and mapmaker NavInfo Co, few expected the gaming and social media company to come up with its own self-driving technology. That would pit it squarely against Baidu, which has invested billions of dollars on AI and driving research and intends to get autonomous vehicles on roads by 2018.

Autonomous driving has been identified as one of the key spaces that could help Chinese manufacturers become more innovative and competitive globally.