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Alibaba rides high on driverless car program

A renewed craving for self-reliance is evident in China’s corporate sector, at a time when international trade is facing major headwinds from protectionist policies and political hostility.

Continuing the recent trend, China has adopted yet another path-breaking technology pioneered by American companies. It makes sense for Chinese firms looking for diversification to turn to autonomous vehicle technology, given the challenges facing the country’s transportation system.

E-commerce behemoth Alibaba (BABA) is the latest to join the league of Chinese firms developing driverless technology, led by arch-rivals Baidu (BIDU) and Tencent Holdings (TCEHY). According to reports, the company’s self-driving program is ready for road tests under normal traffic conditions.

Alibaba is learned to have started building a 50-member team of experts to take forward the project involving cars operated by the SAE Level-4 self-driving technology. The initiative complements the Hangzhou-based company’s recent foray into artificial intelligence technology, with focus on managing vehicle traffic on busy roads and integrating urban transportation.

Alibaba’s self-driving vehicle, which is in the final stages of development, is ready for regular road tests 

With some of the conditions in China’s transport sector being similar to those of the U.S., it could become a more lucrative market for driverless vehicles in the long run.  In general, China has relatively more flexible regulations for the automobile industry, a condition that helped its electric car segment make large strides in recent times.

It is likely that the authorities would promote the autonomous vehicle programs in the country that is the biggest market for passenger cars. Moreover, the Chinese people have a penchant for technology and have been traditionally willing to adopt innovations.

A modest ride-hailing service operated by tech startup Pony.ai is the highlight of China’s autonomous car program. Tencent has already started carrying out tests in cities, while Baidu recently obtained the green signal for preliminary tests.

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