Asia’s Rise as a Global Autonomous Vehicle Hotbed

Yuan-Sheng Yu, Senior Analyst

Many of the world’s leading companies in autonomous vehicle development are headquartered in the U.S., and several major breakthroughs, regarding technical and regulatory milestones, have come from the country. However, the past 18 months have been a transformative period for several of Asia’s key players that are each leading the development of autonomous vehicles in their own unique way.

To understand the current landscape of Asia’s autonomous vehicle ecosystem, Lux Research identified the key players active in the region and mapped the region’s partnership network. While comprehensive, this network map is not an exhaustive list of all partnerships and focuses on substantial agreements that will likely contribute to the parties’ commercialization strategy. A closer look at the ecosystem reveals:

Asias Autonomous Vehicle System - Lux Research

China’s tech giants are setting the direction for autonomous vehicle development. It appears that nearly the entire Asian ecosystem revolves around China’s Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. Baidu sits at the epicenter of the region’s ecosystem in terms of sheer volume of partnerships, but also serves as the gateway for several foreign players into the Chinese market, such as Ford and Volvo for developing and manufacturing autonomous vehicles. Tencent, on the other hand, works exclusively with automakers, both traditional and electric vehicles, including nearly all domestic entities. Alibaba, a latecomer of the three in autonomous vehicles, has its own unique strategy to focus its attention on developing the internal infrastructure of future vehicles with connectivity and voice assistance technologies.

Electric vehicle automakers are vying for a seat at the table among tech giants and traditional automakers. Electric vehicle companies face a wide range of challenges, competing head-to-head with traditional automakers, but when it comes to autonomous vehicles, many are well-positioned with strong internal vehicle manufacturing and full-stack software development. Several of China’s leading electric vehicle companies are strongly concentrating their partnership efforts with Tier 1 suppliers in order to fill competency gaps. One such company, NIO, has supply deals for sensors and processing hardware components with likes of Bosch, NXP, Mobileye, and Nvidia and secured China’s first autonomous vehicle testing permits for public roads in Shanghai.

Autonomous vehicle commercialization won’t just be for passenger vehicles. Players outside the passenger vehicle space are also actively looking for new use cases and business models centered around the adoption of autonomous vehicles and play an integral role in the region’s development and deployment. E-commerce giant JD.com is actively looking at possibilities for transforming its last-mile delivery operations, and several of Asia’s quickly urbanizing megacities are looking at options for autonomous buses, robotaxis, and jeepneys to circumnavigate the bureaucratic bottlenecks of multibillion-dollar public transportation infrastructure projects that are unlikely to develop at the same pace.

Ultimately, autonomy is only one piece of the growing mobility phenomenon in Asia. The environment has spawned a series of innovations that are unique to the regions’ mobility evolution – a result of the collision of an emerging digital society, a rising middle class, and legacy third-world infrastructure. For this very reason, autonomous vehicles will enabled three distinct opportunities in mobility – vehicle-as-a-destination, mobility-as-a-service, and superapp platforms. It is no surprise that with several opportunities for innovation in hardware, software, and business models, new players like tech giants, connected car developers, and e-commerce companies – not traditional automakers – are taking center stage in the region’s development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Further Reading

- Report: Autonomous Vehicles in Asia: Key Players and Commercialization Strategies of the Region's Autonomous Vehicle Ecosystem (Lux Members Only)
- Upcoming Webinar: Avoiding Extinction in an Era of Shared Mobility
- News Commentary: Waymo Receives a Permit to PRovide Rides to Employees, but It's not an Indicator of Progress
- In the News: Autonomous Vehicles and Data as the Fuel of the Future | Economic Times, Auto Logue

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