Driverless taxis in China and online loan-sharks in India

Hi everyone, this is Akito from Singapore.

I would say that one of the greatest privileges of a reporter covering the tech industry is being given an early opportunity to try out some of the world’s most exotic products on behalf of our readers. In 2009, I had the opportunity to test drive Tesla’s first electric roadster and reported on the explosive acceleration delivered by its shrill, zero-emission powertrain. Over a decade later, this technology is challenging the dominance of the internal combustion engine in global automotive markets. A few years ago, I rode in Google’s self-driving prototype vehicle near its headquarters in Silicon Valley. And most recently, I had a taste of lab-bred chicken in Singapore.

All of these are great opportunities to glimpse into the future. But turning a radical idea into a commercial reality takes years of research and development and massive investments – and even that is often not enough to succeed. Another important component is the support of authorities who must recognize the innovation, confirm its safety and support its commercialization. Only then will the public have the opportunity to try out these cutting-edge technologies for themselves.

Driverless in China

The Chinese public is getting such a chance after Baidu announced on Monday that they have it secured permits to get driverless taxis on the road in two major cities, writes Nikkei Asia’s CK Tan in Shanghai.

In a first for the country, the company, better known as the search engine giant, is allowed to offer taxi rides in cars with no human security drivers on board to the public.

These “robotaxis” will be available on the roads in southwest Chongqing and central Wuhan. Operations are limited to eight hours a day in designated zones of 13 to 30 square kilometers in both cities, with just five cars in each city. Nevertheless, the company described the approvals as an “important milestone”.

Baidu launched its latest generation of autonomous vehicles in July, which are about half the size of the previous model. According to co-founder and CEO Robin Li, this means savings for drivers. “We’re moving towards a future where it costs half as much to ride a robotaxi as it does today,” he said of the launch.

In the US, Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors that specializes in autonomous driving, has started operating fully driverless taxis in San Francisco. This puts the world’s two largest auto markets in a neck-and-neck race to commercialize and deploy industry-defining driverless technology as tensions between Washington and Beijing reach new heights.

Are you under pressure to relax?

Foxconn could be it forced to shut down the $800 million investment that made it a major shareholder in China’s Tsinghua Unigroup last month, Catherine Hille writes for the Financial Times.

Taiwanese national security officials believe the deal could make the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, which is also a key Apple supplier, a trump card for Beijing in its tech competition with the US

Foxconn describes the deal as a financial investment, arguing that Tsinghua Unigroup isn’t the heavyweight it used to be after undergoing a debt restructuring that forced it to give up key chip-making assets.

However, Taipei believes the Chinese company is still at the heart of Beijing’s plans for semiconductor self-sufficiency.

Taiwanese officials believe that having one of Taiwan’s largest companies back the Chinese government would pose a national security risk to Taipei and undermine its closer rapprochement with the US

SoftBank the seller

SoftBank Group is hungry for cash. As Masayoshi Son’s tech conglomerate is eager to survive a protracted “tech winter,” it is sale of assets at an accelerated pace Nikkei Asia’s Wataru Suzuki and Cissy Zhou write.

SoftBank is reducing its stake in China’s Alibaba Group Holding, its most successful investment, and Son says the company is also in talks to sell Fortress Investment Group, the US investment firm it bought for $3.3 billion in 2017 Has.

Another asset pool for sale is the portfolio of publicly traded stocks of the two SoftBank Vision Funds. The funds gradually sold their stakes in transportation company Uber and Chinese real estate firm Ke Holdings, generating $11.7 billion in revenue and $2.7 billion in profit.

However, the market downturn is making it difficult for SoftBank to generate large returns from such sales, and no one can tell how long this winter will last.

Borrowers beware

The widespread adoption of fintech has benefited many people in Asia, particularly among the region’s large unbanked populations. But it can also be accompanied by rapid technical developments a darker side, Quratulain Rehbar writes for Nikkei Asia.

Illicit lending apps are becoming a social problem in India, where many in the nation of nearly 1.4 billion lack access to traditional banking services. Credit checks are rare on these apps and interest rates can be exorbitant. Of even greater concern are cases where apps track borrowers’ smartphone data, such as contacts and photos, and use them to harass them into repaying. One victim said even his sister was targeted with threatening WhatsApp messages.

According to the country’s central bank, nearly 600 illegal digital loan apps are operating in the country, while a nonprofit has blamed abusive recovery tactics for 17 suicides in the last year.

Experts are calling for stricter laws to regulate these apps, but also acknowledge that tracking down the groups behind these apps can be difficult.

reading recommendations

  1. Foxconn sticks to chip deal with China amid rising cross-strait tensions (Nikkei Asia)

  2. Apple warns suppliers to follow Chinese regulations on “Taiwan” labeling (Nikkei Asia)

  3. SoftBank’s record $23 billion loss could prompt Masayoshi Son to reconsider privatizing the group (FT)

  4. Samsung plans to start manufacturing semiconductor parts in Vietnam in 2023 (Nikkei Asia)

  5. The Taiwanese Apple supplier is fighting with activists over a $4 billion cash pile (FT)

  6. Didi fears further retaliation from China’s regulators (FT)

  7. SoftBank/Sohn: The descent proves painful for Grand Old Duke of Tech (FT)

  8. China’s New Iron Chefs: Robots and AI Serve $4 Meals in Shanghai (Nikkei Asia)

  9. Panasonic and Nikon stopped developing low-end compact digital cameras (Nikkei Asia)

  10. Alibaba’s revenue falls for the first time since its New York listing (FT)

#techAsia is coordinated by Katherine Creel of Nikkei Asia in Tokyo, with support from the FT Tech Desk in London.

Register here at Nikkei Asia to receive #techAsia every week. The editors can be reached at

Driverless taxis in China and online loan-sharks in India Source link Driverless taxis in China and online loan-sharks in India

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