The U.S. no longer leads the smart speaker market, according to new data from Canalys out this morning, which found China’s smart speaker shipments grew by 500 percent in Q1 2019 to overtake the U.S. and achieve a 51 percent market share.
The firm said shipments in China reached 10.6 million units which was driven by “festive promotions.”
More specifically, Baidu had a huge quarter thanks to an exclusive sponsorship deal with China’s national TV channel, CCTV, on its New Year’s Gala on Chinese New Year’s Eve — one of the biggest entertainment shows in terms of viewer numbers. This promotion prompted users to download the Baidu app, which distributed over 100 million coupons to an audience of 1.2 billion during the show, and drove awareness around the brand’s smart speakers, Canalys says.
In Q1, Baidu shipped 3.3 million speakers — putting it in third place behind Amazon’s 4.6 million and Google’s 3.5 million. Alibaba and Xiaomi followed, each with 3.2 million shipments, also driven by Chinese New Year promotions.
“The lightning fast development in China is largely driven by vendors pouring in large amount of capital to achieve dominant share quickly,” noted Nicole Peng, VP of Mobility at Canalys, in a statement. “This strategy is favoured by internet service providers like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent who are used to spending billions on traffic acquisition and know how to reach critical installed base fast.”
Other brands, combined, accounted for a further 2.9 million shipments. That includes Apple’s HomePod, whose market share was so small it got wrapped into this “Other” section instead of being broken out on its own.
With 10.6 million units, China topped the U.S. 5 million units shipped and brought its market share up to 51 percent, while the U.S. dropped from 44 percent in Q4 2018 to 24 percent in Q1 2019.
Overall, the global smart speaker market returned to triple digit annual growth of 131 percent in the quarter, reaching 20.7 million total Q1 shipments — up from just 9 million in the first quarter of 2018.
Baidu, widely seen as the Google of China, felt the heat from its spending on artificial intelligence and other next-gen technologies that have yet to reach the mass market as it unveiled troubled first-quarter financials on Thursday.
The company logged a net loss attributable to shareholders of $49 million in the quarter ended March 31, marking the first quarterly loss since it went public in 2005. That compares to net income of 6.69 billion yuan a year before.
Baidu is the biggest search service in China and has reaped huge rewards from search ads in the PC era. But as consumers allocate their attention to new forms of mobile services — notably recommendation-based apps to discover content — Baidu is losing its appeal.
Xiang Hailong, senior vice president of Baidu’s search business, resigned after serving the company since 2005, announced the earnings report. The search giant has renamed its search business to a new ‘mobile business’.
Baidu’s revenue for the quarter rose slightly to 24.1 billion yuan ($3.5 billion), up 15 percent year-over-year.
This is a developing story. Check back for analysis.
Tencent, Asia’s largest tech firm, had a horrific 2018 on account of a country-wide freeze on new game monetization in China, but there’s evidence it has turned the corner.
The company’s new mobile gaming hit Game for Peace has yet to kickstart the company’s recovery from a few weakening quarters, but its booming financial technology division has helped to neutralize the brunt to some degree.
The Chinese social media and gaming titan ended the first quarter of 2019 with its slowest revenue growth since going public to $12.69 billion, a 16 percent increase year-over-year.
Profit attributable to equity holders, however, logged a record $4 billion that beat analyst estimates.
Though most famous for WeChat, video games have fuelled Tencent’s earnings and stock prices for many years. The lucrative segment took a hit during a prolonged licensing freeze last year that prevented Tencent from monetizing a few blockbuster titles like PlayersUnknown Battleground, and the impact was still felt in the latest quarter.
Online games revenue for Q1 dropped to 28.51 billion yuan ($4.1 billion), compared to 28.78 billion yuan a year before.
The sluggish period may end soon as Tencent recently secured the official green light to start charging for its PUGB substitute Game for Peace, a less violent version than its predecessor. The new game grossed $14 million within the first three days of release, beating the $4 million Fortnite pocketed in the same duration, data provider Sensor Tower shows.
Fintech and enterprise-facing services made up Tencent’s second-largest revenue bucket with 21.79 billion yuan ($3.16 billion), a 44 percent growth year-over-year. In recent quarters, the firm began to single out its earnings for its booming fintech unit that contains its popular payments service WeChat Pay.
Unlike Facebook, Tencent hasn’t aggressively monetized its social media empire for advertising inventory until recently. Online ad revenues grew 25 percent to 13.38 billion yuan ($1.94 billion), accounting for 15.7 percent of total revenues.
That’s thanks to increased ad revenues from Weixin. All told, WeChat and its Chinese version Weixin crossed the 1.1 billion monthly active user benchmark. Its 20-year-old QQ, a legacy chatting app from the Chinese PC era, continued to grow and reached 823 MAUs.
Tencent’s Netflix -style video streaming service also contributed to increased ad earnings. Tencent Video, which has poured vast sums of money to license content in a bid to outrace Baidu’s iQiyi and Alibaba’s Youku, reached 89 million subscribers in the season.
Five years ago, Dynamic Yield was courting an investment from The New York Times as it looked to shift how publishers paywalled their content. Last month, Chicago-based fast food king McDonald’s bought the Israeli company for $300 million, a source told TechCrunch, with the purpose of rethinking how people order drive-thru chicken nuggets.
The pivot from courting the grey lady to the golden arches isn’t as drastic as it sounds. In a lot of ways, it’s the result of the company learning to say “no” to certain customers. At least, that’s what Bessemer’s Adam Fisher tells us.
The Exit is a new series at TechCrunch. It’s an exit interview of sorts with a VC who was in the right place at the right time but made the right call on an investment that paid off.
Fisher was Dynamic Yield founder Liad Agmon’s first call when he started looking for funds from institutional investors. Bessemer bankrolled the bulk of a $1.7 million funding round which valued the startup at $5 million pre-money back in 2013. The firm ended up putting about $15 million into Dynamic Yield, which raised ~$85 million in total from backers including Marker Capital, Union Tech Ventures, Baidu and The New York Times.
Fisher and I chatted at length about the company’s challenging rise and how Israel’s tech scene is still being underestimated. Fisher has 11 years at Bessemer under his belt and 14 exits including Wix, Intucell, Ravello and Leaba.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Lucas Matney: So, right off the bat, how exactly did this tool initially built for publishers end up becoming something that McDonalds wanted?
Adam Fisher: I mean, the story of Dynamic Yield is unique. Liad, the founder and CEO, he was an entrepreneur in residence in our Herzliya office back in 2011. I’d identified him earlier from his previous company, and I just said, ‘Well, that’s the kind of guy I’d love to work with.’ I didn’t like his previous company, but there was something about his charisma, his technology background, his youth, which I just felt like “Wow, he’s going to do something interesting.” And so when he sold his previous company, coincidentally to another Chicago based company called Sears, I invited him and I think he found it very flattering, so he joined us as an EIR.
Competition in the Chinese internet has for years been about who controls your mobile apps. These days, giants are increasingly turning to offline scenarios, including what’s going on behind the dashboard in your car.
On Tuesday, Alibaba announced at the annual Shanghai Auto Show that it’s developing apps for connected cars that will let drivers find restaurants, queue up and make reservations at restaurants, order food and eventually complete a plethora of other tasks using voice, motion or touch control. Third-party developers are invited to make their in-car apps, which will run on Alibaba’s operating system AliOS.
Rather than working as standalone apps, these in-car services come in the form of “mini apps,” which are smaller than regular ones in exchange for faster access and smaller file sizes, in Alibaba’s all-in-one digital wallet Alipay . Alibaba has other so-called “super apps” in its ecosystem, such as marketplace Taobao and navigation service AutoNavi, but the payments solution clearly makes more economic sense if Alibaba wants people to spend more while sitting in a four-wheeler.
There’s no timeline for when Alibaba will officially roll out in-car mini apps but it’s already planning for a launch, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Making lite apps has been a popular strategy for China’s internet giants operating super apps that host outside apps, or “mini-apps”; that way users rarely need to leave their ecosystems. These lite apps are known to be easier and cheaper to build than a native app, although developers have to make concessions like giving their hosts certain level of access to user data and obeying rules as they would with Apple’s App Store. For in-car services, Alibaba says there will be “specific review criteria for safety and control” tailored to the auto industry.
Photo source: Alibaba
Alibaba’s move is indicative of a heightened competition to control the operating system in next-gen connected cars. For those who wonder whether the ecommerce behemoth will make its own cars given it’s aggressively infiltrated the physical space, like opening its own supermarket chain Hema, the company’s solution to vehicles appears to be on the software front, at least for now.
In 2017, Alibaba rebranded its operating system with a deep focus to put AliOS into car partners. To achieve this goal, Alibaba also set up a joint venture called Banma Network with state-owned automaker SAIC Motor and Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen, which is the French car company’s China venture, that would hawk and integrate AliOS-powered solutions with car clients. As of last August, 700 thousand AliOS-powered SAIC vehicles had been sold.
Alibaba competitors Tencent and Baidu have also driven into the auto field, although through slightly different routes. Baidu began by betting on autonomous driving and built an Android-like developer platform for car manufacturers. While the futuristic plan is far from bearing significant commercial fruit, it’s gained a strong foothold in self-driving with the most mileage driven in Beijing, a pivotal hub to test autonomous cars. Tencent’s car initiatives seem more nebulous. Like Baidu, it’s testing self-driving and like Alibaba, it’s partnered with industry veterans to make cars, but it’s unclear where the advantage lies for the social media and gaming giant in the auto space.
Smart speakers’ global installed base is on track to top 200 million by the end of this year, according to a report out today from analysts at Canalys. Specifically, the firm forecasts the installed base will grow by 82.4 percent from 114 million units in 2018 to 207.9 million in 2019. The U.S. will continue to lead in terms of smart speaker adoption, but a good portion of this year’s growth will also come from East Asian markets – particularly China, the report says.
The firm estimates 166 percent year-over-year growth in the installed base for smart speakers in mainland China this year – going from 22.5 million units in 2018 to 59.9 million in 2019 – to reach 13 percent smart speaker penetration in the region. That’s compared with 46 percent growth in the U.S.
The market for China will also look much different from the U.S., where Amazon and Google today dominate. These companies don’t have a smart speaker presence in China. That means others – like Alibaba’s Tmall Genie, Xiaomi’sXiao Ai, Baidu’s DuerOS and more – will gain traction instead. Canalys predicts Tmall will lead, with 39 percent of the 2019 smart speaker market share in mainland China, followed by 25 percent for Xiao Ai, 24 percent for DuerOS and 12 percent for all others. (Note that Canalys didn’t break out estimates for Apple HomePod in China, where it launched in January. But given its higher price point, it seems the firm isn’t predicting huge adoption at this time.)
“Local vendors are bullish about China’s smart speaker market, and their aim for this year is to keep growing their respective installed bases in the country by shipping more devices into households,” said Canalys senior analyst Jason Low. “Hardware differentiation is becoming increasingly difficult, and consumers have higher expectations of smart speakers and smart assistants. Vendors will need to focus on marketing the next-generation ‘wow factor’ for their respective smart assistants and voice services to change consumers’ perception and drive greater adoption,” he added.
It’s worth noting, too, that the market for the voice assistants powering these smart speakers is even broader. For instance, Baidu announced in January 2019 that its DuerOS assistant has topped 200 million devices. This device base includes other things like home appliances and set-top boxes, in addition to smart speakers, however. And the worldwide market for voice assistants is on track to reach 8 billion by 2023, up from 2.5 billion in 2018, a report from Juniper Research said.
Canalys’ forecast follows news that smart speakers have hit critical mass in the U.S., where now 41 percent of U.S. consumers now own a voice-activated speaker, up from 21.5 percent in 2017.
While most analysts firms are reporting rapid global growth for smart speakers, their individual forecasts may vary some.
For example, Deloitte estimated the installed base for smart speakers will be even bigger – reaching more than 250 million units by the end of 2019, following 63 percent year-over-year growth. That would make smart speakers the “fastest-growing connected device category worldwide in 2019,” the firm had said, and would see the total market worth $7 billion.
Canalys’ forecast agrees with this prediction, if not the exact numbers. Today, it also adds that smart speakers will top the install base of wearable bands (like smartwatches and fitness trackers) in 2019, and will overtake tablets by 2021.
A games publisher in China is following the path of its larger peer Tencent to back a wide spectrum of startups for financial gains. Beijing Kunlun Wanwei, or Kunlun, announced in a filing this week that it plans to inject $50 million into autonomous driving startup Pony.ai in exchange for a 3 percent stake.
Pony.ai confirmed the investment with TechCrunch in an email response, adding that the money contributes to its pre-B round of financing. The startup last pocketed $102 million that valued it at nearly $1 billion. It’s raised $214 million in total fundings to date according to data from CrunchBase.
Shanghai-listed Kunlun has its bets on one of China’s most aggressive smart driving companies. Pony.ai, co-founded by James Peng, formerly a leader in Baidu’s self-driving division, was only second to Baidu in total autonomous miles driven in Beijing last year (although by a large margin).
While neither Kunlun nor Pony.ai provided an inkling of possible strategic collaboration between them, next-gen vehicles have become a much sought-after space for hosting entertainment content, and without a doubt that includes video games.
Few outside China’s internet industry know of Kunlun, which has over the years been squeezed by industry leaders Tencent and NetEase . The 11-year-old company has, however, gradually earned its reputation as a savvy investor. Led by Zhou Yahui, a shrewd investor himself, Kunlun has backed companies that broadened distribution channels for its gaming titles. Other fundings appear more tangential. Here’s a taste of Kunlun’s lucrative portfolio:
Inke: Back in 2016, Kunlun invested 68 million yuan ($10 million) in live streaming company Inke. By 2017 it had sold all its stakes in the startup and was poised to cash out a total of 824 million yuan ($123 million) after the transaction completed, according to a filing. Inke is the currently third-largest live streaming app by monthly active devices in China, says data from iResearch.
Opera: Kunlun was part of a consortium that acquired the web browser in 2016 when it shelled out $600 million in investment. Through the consortium, Kunlun now owns a 48 percent stake in Opera, which floated on Nasdaq in 2018.
Grindr: Kunlun paid $93 million for a 60 percent stake in Grindr, the popular dating app for gay, bisexual, transgender and queer users, back in 2016 and completed the buyout with $152 million in fundings in 2018. Kunlun is reportedly looking to sell Grindr after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States decided its ownership of the dating app may threaten national security.
Qudian: Kunlun owned a 19.2 percent stake in Qudian when the micro-lender became one of the first Chinese fintech companies to list on Nasdaq. Kunlun has since been selling its stakes through a gradual exit and Zhou recently told analysts that his firm was expected to make around 2 billion yuan ($300 million) in profit from the Qudian investment.
While the world marvels at the first black hole image ever taken, a Chinese photo-sharing community is setting off a huge public outcry over its use of the landmark photo and a wider debate over copyrights practices in China.
As soon as the European Southern Observatory released the black hole photo on April 10, Visual China Group (VCG), China’s leading stock image provider that’s compared to Getty Images and owns Flikr’s one-time rival 500px, made the image available for sale in its library without attribution to the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT), an array of radio telescopes that captured the image of the black hole.
“This is an editorial image. Please call 400-818-2525 or consult our customer service representative for commercial use,” said a note for the black hole image on VCG’s website.
Internet users took to social media slamming VCG for monetizing a photo intended for free distribution among the human race. Most of images on ESO are, according to the organization, under the Creative Commons license.
Unless specifically noted, the images, videos, and music distributed on the public ESO website, along with the texts of press releases, announcements, pictures of the week, blog posts and captions, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, and may on a non-exclusive basis be reproduced without fee provided the credit is clear and visible.
VCG swiftly revised the note to say the black hole photo should not be used for commercial purposes, but Pandora’s box was already open. The incident sparked a plethora of comments on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, condemning VCG’s opportunist business practice. The site is said to often play the role of the victim to obtain financial compensation, and it does so by seeking damages from users who inadvertently use a public domain photo that VCG has preemptively copyrighted.
Shares of VCG plummeted 10 percent Friday morning in Shanghai, giving it a market cap of 17.66 billion yuan ($2.63 billion).
Assets of VCG’s massive content library range from logos of large tech companies like Baidu, all the way to the Chinese national flag.
“Does your company also own copyrights to the national flag and national emblem?” remarked the Chinese Communist Youth League on its official Weibo account in a snarky response to VCG’s unscrupulous licensing practice.
The price tag of the national emblem image is, lo and behold, no less than 150 yuan ($22) for use in a newspaper article and at least 1,500 yuan ($220) on a magazine cover.
Screenshot: The image of the Chinese national emblem was for sale on VCG at 150 yuan to 1500 yuan
“Copyrights protection should definitely be promoted. The question is, why is VCG allowed to price photos of the black hole and the likes out of the market? Why is it able to exploit loopholes?” Du Yu, a Beijing-based freelance technology journalist, said to TechCrunch.
TechCrunch has reached out to ESO for comments and will update the story once we hear back.
Government intervention soon followed on the heels of online criticisms. On April 11, the cyberspace watchdog of Tianjin, where VCG’s parent company is based, ordered the photo site to end its “illegal, rule-breaking practices.”
VCG apologized on April 12 in a company statement, admitting the lack of oversight over its contracted contributors who allegedly uploaded the images in question. “We have taken down all non-compliant photos and closed down the site voluntarily for a revamp in accordance with related laws,” said VCG.
The HBO sci-fi blockbuster Westworld has been an inspiring look into what humanlike robots can do for us in the meatspace. While current technologies are not quite advanced enough to make Westworld a reality, startups are attempting to replicate the sort of human-robot interaction it presents in virtual space.
Rct studio, which just graduated from Y Combinator and ranked among TechCrunch’s nine favorite picks from the batch, is one of them. The “Westworld” in the TV series, a far-future theme park staffed by highly convincing androids, lets visitors live out their heroic and sadistic fantasies free of consequences.
There are a few reasons why rct studio, which is keeping mum about the meaning of its deliberately lower-cased name for later revelation, is going for the computer-generated world. Besides the technical challenge, playing a fictional universe out virtually does away the geographic constraint. The Westworld experience, in contrast, happens within a confined, meticulously built park.
“Westworld is built in a physical world. I think in this age and time, that’s not what we want to get into,” Xinjie Ma, who heads up marketing for rct, told TechCrunch. “Doing it in the physical environment is too hard, but we can build a virtual world that’s completely under control.”
Rct studio wants to build the Westworld experience in virtual worlds. / Image: rct studio
The startup appears suitable to undertake the task. The eight-people team is led by Cheng Lyu, the 29-year-old entrepreneur who goes by Jesse and helped Baidu build up its smart speaker unit from scratch after the Chinese search giant acquired his voice startup Raven in 2017. Along with several of Raven’s core members, Lyu left Baidu in 2018 to start rct.
“We appreciate a lot the support and opportunities given by Baidu and during the years we have grown up dramatically,” said Ma, who previously oversaw marketing at Raven.
Let AI write the script
Immersive films, or games, depending on how one wants to classify the emerging field, are already available with pre-written scripts for users to pick from. Rct wants to take the experience to the next level by recruiting artificial intelligence for screenwriting.
At the center of the project is the company’s proprietary engine, Morpheus. Rct feeds it mountains of data based on human-written storylines so the characters it powers know how to adapt to situations in real time. When the codes are sophisticated enough, rct hopes the engine can self-learn and formulate its own ideas.
“It takes an enormous amount of time and effort for humans to come up with a story logic. With machines, we can quickly produce an infinite number of narrative choices,” said Ma.
To venture through rct’s immersive worlds, users wear a virtual reality headset and control their simulated self via voice. The choice of audio came as a natural step given the team’s experience with natural language processing, but the startup also welcomes the chance to develop new devices for more lifelike journeys.
“It’s sort of like how the film Ready Player One built its own gadgets for the virtual world. Or Apple, which designs its own devices to carry out superior software experience,” explained Ma.
On the creative front, rct believes Morpheus could be a productivity tool for filmmakers as it can take a story arc and dissect it into a decision-making tree within seconds. The engine can also render text to 3D images, so when a filmmaker inputs the text “the man throws the cup to the desk behind the sofa,” the computer can instantly produce the corresponding animation.
Path to monetization
Investors are buying into rct’s offering. The startup is about to close its Series A funding round just months after banking seed money from Y Combinator and Chinese venture capital firm Skysaga, the startup told TechCrunch.
The company has a few imminent tasks before achieving its Westworld dream. For one, it needs a lot of technical talent to train Morpheus with screenplay data. No one on the team had experience in filmmaking, so it’s on the lookout for a creative head who appreciates AI’s application in films.
Rct studio’s software takes a story arc and dissects it into a decision-making tree within seconds. / Image: rct studio
“Not all filmmakers we approach like what we do, which is understandable because it’s a very mature industry, while others get excited about tech’s possibility,” said Ma.
The startup’s entry into the fictional world was less about a passion for films than an imperative to shake up a traditional space with AI. Smart speakers were its first foray, but making changes to tangible objects that people are already accustomed to proved challenging. There has been some interest in voice-controlled speakers, but they are far from achieving ubiquity. Then movies crossed the team’s mind.
“There are two main routes to make use of AI. One is to target a vertical sector, like cars and speakers, but these things have physical constraints. The other application, like Alpha Go, largely exists in the lab. We wanted something that’s both free of physical limitation and holds commercial potential.”
The Beijing and Los Angeles-based startup isn’t content with just making the software. Eventually, it wants to release its own films. The company has inked a long-term partnership with Future Affairs Administration, a Chinese sci-fi publisher representing about 200 writers, including the Hugo award-winning Cixin Liu. The pair is expected to start co-producing interactive films within a year.
Rct’s path is reminiscent of a giant that precedes it: Pixar Animation Studios . The Chinese company didn’t exactly look to the California-based studio for inspiration, but the analog was a useful shortcut to pitch to investors.
“A confident company doesn’t really draw parallels with others, but we do share similarities to Pixar, which also started as a tech company, publishes its own films, and has built its own engine,” said Ma. “A lot of studios are asking how much we price our engine at, but we are targeting the consumer market. Making our own films carry so many more possibilities than simply selling a piece of software.”
While the public is asking, “When are we going to ride in autonomous cars?” Technology companies have been moving apace to test them on designated roads. In China’s capital city Beijing, eight firms drove a total of 153,600 kilometers (95442.6 miles) through their autonomous fleets in 2018, and Baidu, the country’s largest search engine service seen as a local answer to Google, has built a big lead.
That’s according to new data released by Beijing’s transportation regulators in their first report on the city’s licensed self-driving cars. While the authority did not specify conditions of the road tests, say, the number of instances when a human driver had to intervene to prevent an accident, namely the level of “disengagement” that California’s counterpart report asked for, Beijing’s data offers the public an early glimpse into a fledgling field.
Baidu registered nearly 140,000 kilometers in Beijing last year, representing about 91 percent of total self-driving distances traveled by the eight licensed transportation companies in the city. The firm’s leading position is closely linked to its pledge to go all out for artificial intelligence. When it comes to AI’s application in mobility, Baidu stays clear of making hardware and runs an open platform called Apollo that lets third-party developers tap its autonomous tech.
Apollo has joined hands with 135 car manufacturers, parts suppliers and other car allies at last count. Its partners range from international automakers Volvo and Ford, to local electric vehicle startups Byton and Nasdaq-listed NIO.
Baidu was also the first to nab a batch of L3 licenses to trial self-driving cars in Beijing, where Baidu is headquartered and is the country’s first city to allow such road tests. Robocars are now testing in more than ten Chinese cities, including first-tier Beijing and Shanghai as well as smaller urban centers like Changsha, where Baidu is working with the municipal government to bring 100 automated cabs to the city by end of this year.
The runner-up on Beijing’s road-test list, Pony.ai, lagged behind Baidu by a large margin at 10132.9 kilometers. But the three-year-old company has attracted large sums of investor money, in part thanks to the resume of co-founder James Peng, who was the former chief architect of Baidu’s autonomous driving unit. The southern China-based startup counts Sequoia Capital China as one of its seed investors and nearly reached $1 billion in valuation after raising $102 million in funding last July.
Other self-driving companies testing in Beijing included social and gaming giant Tencent, ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing, and carmakers NIO, Audi AG, Daimler AG and Beijing’s state-owned BAIC Group. Didi, which made safety a priority across company divisions following two passenger murders last year, ran the least self-driving miles in Beijing last year but the company holds great potential to unlock mountains of car-hailing data that could help autonomous vehicles predict road conditions.
Notably missing from the list is Roadstar.ai, a self-driving startup that once rivaled Pony.ai and secured a record $128 million Series A round less than a year ago. Chinese tech news blog Liangziwei reported this week that shareholders are asking to dissolve and liquidate the Shenzhen and Silicon Valley-based firm following months of infighting among its senior executives.
Also unmentioned is Huawei, a potentially formidable player in autonomous driving. The telecom equipment maker’s foray into self-driving predates many other familiar names. Back in 2016, Huawei was among a group of tech firms and carmakers to form the Global Cross-industry 5G Automotive Association aimed at developing communications technology and commercial solutions for automated driving. Members of the alliance included Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm. More recently, Huawei’s partnership with Audi brought more light to its ambition in autonomous tech, as it provided chipsets to power Audi’s L4 (which is more autonomous than L3) self-driving sedans.