China’s internet giant Tencent, owner of the wildly popular messaging app WeChat, reportedly just bought up a 5 percent stake in U.S. automaker and energy storage company Tesla to the tune of $1.8 million.
On Tencent’s part, the move looks to capitalize on Tesla’s fast-growing market in China, which last year accounted for over $1 billion of the automaker’s total revenue. The move may also position Tesla to collaborate with Chinese rideshare company Didi Chuxing, in which Tencent invested back in 2015.
Didi set up an artificial intelligence lab in Silicon Valley earlier this month, said Recode, which signals that the company is also investigating self-driving technology. Working together, Tesla and Tencent could feasibly leverage Didi’s existing network in China to bring self-driving vehicle models into the nation of over 1.3 billion.
Self-driving technology is the next frontier for tech companies, automakers and rideshare startups alike.
In February, Ford announced a $1 billion investment in a joint product with Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based company with ties to Carnegie Mellon. The goal is to completely outfit Ford vehicles with self-driving technology by 2021.
And Ford is far from alone in aggressively pursuing this path — GM, BMW, Chrysler, Toyota and VW are all following it, and the race to build the car that drives itself is on and accelerating.
While Uber has also made some progress in developing its self-driving cars, there is still significant work to be done, according to a company report. Slowly but surely, Uber is steadily increasing the number of miles driven autonomously.
During the week ending March 8, the 43 active cars only drove an average of about 0.8 miles before the safety driver had to take over, with the reasons for the takeover ranging from navigating unclear lane markings to driving in inclement weather.
Even Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving company, which has been working on its own autonomous tech since 2009, still sees a handful of times when driver needs to take over.