New Autonomous Driving System by Tencent Is in the Works, Report Says

The autonomous tech bandwagon is getting crowded.

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Tech giant Tencent may be the next company to enter the self-driving car game. The Tesla investor is developing its own autonomous driving system, and hopes to leverage its mapping and artificial intelligence expertise to gain an advantage over the competition, according to a Bloomberg report.

Known for its WeChat social media platform, the Chinese company reportedly has a prototype autonomous driving system that it is testing internally. It's unclear exactly how far along the company is, and whether it has begun testing its prototype system with actual cars.

Developing autonomous driving technology puts Tencent in competition with a host of companies, including more widely-known Chinese tech firm Baidu. Like Tencent, Baidu has extensive tech expertise and resources, but no real automotive experience. Baidu is partnering with a number of companies to get its autonomous driving platform, Apollo, into operation. Tencent has not confirmed any autonomous driving development program, let alone partnerships with other companies.

But Tencent has shown interest in the automotive world recently. It bought 5 percent of Tesla in March, and is a major investor in Didi Chuxing, Uber's onetime Chinese ride-sharing rival. Tencent was also an early investor in NextEV, the Chinese startup hoping to develop autonomous electric cars under its Nio brand.

Tesla has kept its self-driving car development efforts in-house, but the relationships with Didi Chuxing and NextEV/Nio could give Tencent what it needs to commercialize the technology: An automaker to build the actual cars, and a ride-sharing company to put them to use. But Tencent still faces massive competition in the form of numerous automakers and tech companies racing to put autonomous cars on the road.