Robot wars: Will electric car giant Tesla win the race to launch the first fleet of robotaxis?
Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has made a bold pledge – to put 1 million driverless ‘robotaxis’ on US roads by 2020.
Some experts remain sceptical about whether Elon can deliver his promise. If he does deliver, Tesla’s value could increase significantly, meaning now may be a good time to buy Tesla shares.
With Tesla’s share value currently at 228.9 (July 1st) it saw an increase of 4% recently, largely due to the analyst prediction of the electric car manufacturer doubling up the number of deliveries for its new Model 3 vehicle.
After his bold driverless taxi pledge, Musk may decide a stepping stone to achieving this goal could be to launch a human-driven ‘Tesla Network’ rideshare service, via the Tesla app. This would put Tesla in direct competition with existing rideshare services already available from Uber and Lyft.
Uber and Lyft are also in the race to make driverless cabs commonplace, so the competition is heating up. Uber and Lyft are expected to deliver on their own, perhaps more realistic, deadline of owning a fleet of driverless cabs within the next five years.
Driverless cars, once the stuff of science fiction movies, could be a regular sight on US roads within the next few years, as big businesses ramp up their efforts to become the first to market. Uber demonstrated its own driverless car, the Volvo XC90 SUV at its recent annual Elevate summit. It will be conducting on-road testing of the new vehicle as early as next year.
Uber’s driverless fleet will have computerised breaking and steering systems, plus back-up battery power and a back-up system to stop the car if its primary control systems fail. driverless cars are already being tested on roads in Pittsburgh, but Uber suffered a catastrophic setback in its development of driverless technology, when one of its driverless cars was involved in a fatal accident in Arizona in 2018.
Most driverless car manufacturers are aiming to use LiDAR technology (Light Detection and Ranging) which will be combined with cameras and radar to navigate the roads. Not Tesla though, Musk claims the LiDAR technology is an unnecessary expense, and plans to use an eight camera system for a 360 degree view of what’s going on around the vehicle. Tesla also claims that in two years’ time it will be manufacturing cars that have no requirement for pedals or steering wheels.
And there’s another competitor in the race too. Waymo, originally Google’s driverless car enterprise, is now a standalone driverless car start-up, which is aiming to develop the ‘world’s most experienced driver’ and was recently valued at $100 billion.
There is one big hurdle that is yet to be overcome by all contenders though, and that is regulatory and Government approval. Electronic vehicles and driverless cars have met resistance and lobbying from many angles, from the Koch brothers battling against unfair taxes to the automotive retailers calling for a ban in direct sales.
Whoever wins the race to put robotaxis on the road, one thing is for sure - robotics generally, not only in automotive, is now a massive growth market, with experts predicting a threefold increase within the next decade. It’s an exciting time for the industry and presents a wealth of investment opportunity.
Why Alibaba Cloud is doubling down in Southeast Asia
Alibaba has announced expansion of its cloud business within Southeast Asia, with the introduction of a digital upskilling programme for locals alongside acceleration of its data centre openings.
This doubling down of its cloud business in Southeast Asia comes as the company faces stiff competition at home in China from rivals including Pinduoduo Inc and Tencent and seeks to up its game in a region considered to be the fastest-growing in cloud adoption to compete with leading global cloud providers AWS, Google and Microsoft.
Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and second biggest revenue driver after its core e-commerce business, finally turned profitable for the first time in the December 2020 following 11 years of operation, thanks largely to the pandemic which has spurred businesses and consumers to get online.
Southeast Asia growing demand for cloud
In 2020, there was a noticeable increase in interest towards cloud in SE Asia, with the population embracing digital transformation during the pandemic and SMEs across the region showing increased demand for cloud computing.
Such demand has led to the expectation that Southeast Asia is now the fastest-growing adopter of cloud computing with the cloud market expected to reach US$40.32bn in Southeast Asia by 2025 according to IDC.
And there are plenty of players vying for a slice of the cloud pie. While AWS, the cloud arm of Amazon, is the leading player in Southeast Asia (and across all of APAC apart from China), Microsoft and Google are the next two most dominant players in Southeast Asia with Alibaba coming in fourth.
“There is no doubt that during the past year we have seen the acceleration of digital transformation efforts across all industries,” explains Ahmed Mazhari, President, Microsoft Asia. “Asia now accounts for 60% of the world’s growth and is leading the global recovery with the digitalization of business models and economies. Cloud will continue to be a core foundation empowering the realization of Asia’s ambitions, enabling co-innovation across industries, government and community, to drive inclusive societal progress.”
Alibaba’s commitment to Southeast Asia
At its annual Alibaba Cloud Summit, the Chinese company announced Project AsiaForward, an initiative designed to upskill local developers, small-to-medium-sized companies and connect businesses with venture capital. Alibaba said it would set aside US$1bn over the next three years to develop digital skills in the region, with the aim of helping to develop 100,000 developers and to help grow 100,000 tech startups.
But that’s not all. The company, which recently opened its third data centre in Indonesia, serving customers with offerings across database, security, network, machine learning and data analytics services, also announced it would unveil its first data centre in the Philippines by the end of 2021.
Furthermore, that it would establish its first international innovation centre, located in Malaysia, offering a one-stop shop platform for Malaysian SMEs, startups and developers to innovate in emerging technologies.
“We are seeing a strong demand for cloud-native technologies in emerging verticals across the region, from e-commerce and logistics platforms to FinTech and online entertainment. As the leading cloud service provider and trusted partner in APAC, we are committed to bettering the region’s cloud ecosystem and enhancing its digital infrastructure,” says Jeff Zhang, President, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.
What other cloud providers are pledging in the region
This pledge by Alibaba to upskill both individuals and businesses follows Microsoft’s announcement in April that it was planning to upskill Malaysia’s population and would invest US$1bn over the next five years to build a new data centre centre in Malaysia.
This is the latest in a long line of pledges to the region by the US tech giant, which is fast accelerating the growth of its cloud datacenter footprint in Asia, expanding form seven 11 markets, and recently adding three new markets across Asia – Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. Back in February, it announced plans to establish its first datacenter region in Indonesia and to skill an additional 3 million Indonesians to achieve its goal of empowering over 24 million Indonesians by the end of 2021.
And recent research by IDC shows that Microsoft’s most recent datacenter expansions in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan alone are set to generate more than US$21bn in new revenues and will create 100,000 new jobs in the next four years.
Also last month, Tencent announced it has launched internet data centres in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo to add to its second availability zone opened in Korea last year and plans to add an internet data center in Indonesia, and Google has also been pushing into the enterprise space in Southeast Asia for several years now.
Expanding data centers allows cloud providers to boost their capacity in certain countries or regions.