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After Baidu-tie-up, BMW loses Tencent for autonomous driving in China – TechCrunch

China is BMW's largest market, and the German automaker knows to capture the country's demanding consumers. Future models must support robust autonomous driving capacity.

But it is hardly possible to build it yourself in China. The success of autonomous driving depends in part on HD mapping, a process that requires a comprehensive collection of geographic information. By law, foreign entities cannot host China-based data without local partnerships. Apple works strangely with a Chinese company to store the user's email, text messages and other forms of digital footprint in the country.

It seems to be one of the catalysts for BMW's new partnership with Tencent. The Chinese tech giant, best known for WeChat and running a growing cloud computing business, said on Friday that a data storage and storage platform has been set up for the German premium car manufacturer. Reuters reported that the couple is planning to start the data center at the end of this year in Tianjin, a port city near Beijing.

Binding came months after BMW's previous data expansion in the world's largest passenger car market. In February, here ̵[ads1]1; a Google Maps alternative partly owned by BWM – joined the Chinese navigation service Navinfo which would help Here collect data locally. It may not be coincidental that Navinfo and Tencent both bought small shares in Her three years ago.

When BMW gets to know China's road conditions better, there is no reason why it will not use that data for its newly-ridden venture.

Teaming up with BMW can be a big win for Tencent, which has put more focus on business-oriented measures as its main gaming business tackles regulatory pressure. In the transport sector, Tencent is committed to helping the automotive industry in the digital transformation, says Dowson Tong, the company's president of the Cloud and Smart Industry, in a statement.

Another relationship

BMW has previously sought another Chinese technological leader to automate their cars. It has worked with Baidu, the country's largest search engine provider with a growing list of artificial intelligence initiatives, on automated driving since 2014.

In October, the duo turned up their alliance after the German machine came to Baidus autonomous running open platform Apollo . The deal had greater diplomatic significance as it happened during Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang's visit to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Baidu President Zhang Yaqin said when the deal was meant to "accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that match the Chinese market."

However, BMW's relationship with Tencent has previously played on other fronts, including joint investigation of autonomous driving safety and testing involving Tencent's known Keen Security Lab.

Baidu and Tencent do not compete directly for their core businesses, but both make a huge impact on the future of mobility, whether the effort concerns car entertainment or self-driving. It is not uncommon for technological rivals in China to target the same partner. A spokeswoman for BMW told TechCrunch that "there is no overlap in the collaboration" and the German firm collaborates with various top-chinese companies in various fields.

The layout with Tencent seems like it's the first time. The Chinese company offers "IT architecture, tools and platforms that support the entire process of [BMW’s] automated driving research and development," according to spokeswoman. As for Baidu, she cited an example of the couple working on a self-propelled security script that also involved ten other partners.

There may be a roundabout saying that the Baidu Alliance is looser. It is worth pointing out that BMW is not unique to Apollo, which expects "Android for autonomous cars" and now counts more than 100 auto partners from around the world.

A large network helps generate calls and the potential leads down the road, but keeping it this way can compromise the depth of "collaboration" – a word that is all too often copied by the public. As Cao Xudong, founder of Chinese autonomous unicorn Momenta, told TechCrunch earlier, automotive collaboration "requires deep, resource-intensive cooperation, so less [fewer partnerships] is believed to be more."

What about the other heavyweight Alibaba, who also wants to own the future of driving? The Chinese ecommerce and cloud computing firm has been shut down with state-of-the-art automobile manufacturer SAIC, which it has set up a joint venture, Banma, to create autonomous driving solutions. This existing marriage means that BMW will not likely drain Alibaba for automation, an employee of a major Chinese self-driving startup suggested to me.

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