April 18 (UPI) — Alibaba is throwing its hat into the self-driving car ring, an increasingly competitive field dominated in China by Internet giants.
The Alibaba Group, the world’s largest online retailer, has been investing in autonomous navigation technology that could soon acquire Level 4 autonomous capability, China Daily reported Wednesday.
Wang Gang, who was tapped to head Alibaba AI Labs in March 2017, was recruited from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University to begin the ambitious project, according to the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper owned by Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group.
Level 4 autonomous capability means a car can self-drive in most conditions without human intervention.
Alibaba may be facing some stiff competition, however,
Baidu, recognized in November as a national champion in self-driving car development in China, is working on Level 4 capability, as is Tencent, another Internet behemoth.
The reports of Alibaba’s foray into self-driving technology follow new government policy.
On Thursday, China announced it would allow road-test runs for various self-driving cars.
Alibaba has been running road tests of its cars, but is seeking to recruit 50 more self-driving specialists to complete the project.
Global consulting firm McKinsey has stated China will soon become the world’s largest market for self-driving cars, worth more than $500 billion by 2030.
The firm also stated a recent survey showed 98 percent of Chinese say they prefer self-driving cars, compared to 69 percent in Germany and 70 percent in the United States.