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Tencent to develop technology for self-driving cars
source: Bloomberg
Tencent Holdings has developed its own autonomous driving system, becoming the latest high-tech company to enter a crowded market that could evolve into a $42 billion (278 billion yuan) industry.
China¡¯s social media giant intends to leverage its mapping and artificial intelligence technology to establish a niche in the fast-growing segment, sources said.

Tencent will compete with global rivals such as Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and local rivals such as Baidu Inc.

Jane Yip, a spokeswoman for Tencent, declined to comment.

It's unclear how far the development effort has advanced, although Tencent has built and tested a prototype, the sources said. The company also has established a presence in several related fields.

Tencent, whose popular WeChat service emerged from an internal development project, would be China's biggest entrant into autonomous driving.

In March, Tencent Chairman Ma Huateng said he wanted to develop AI technology for self-driving cars. At the time, Tencent bought 5 percent of Tesla Inc., which is developing self-driving vehicles.

Tencent also is a major backer of ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and mapmaker NavInfo Co. But few expected the gaming and social media company to develop its own self-driving technology.

That would pit Tencent squarely against Baidu Inc., which has invested billions of yuan in AI and intends to put autonomous vehicles on the road by 2018.

Tencent, of Shenzhen, had previously invested in mapping, Internet connectivity and image recognition, which will help the company compete with Baidu.

Tencent also has invested in Nio, the electric vehicle startup owned by Chinese Internet entrepreneur William Li and originally called NextEV Inc.

Nio's U.S. headquarters are in San Jose, Calif., and the company has vowed to bring a plug-in autonomous car to the U.S. by 2020.