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Baidu Enters the Global Race for Driverless Car Domination

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Wang Jing bought his first car, a Dodge Shadow, with $3,000 he scratched together working three part-time jobs in the U.S. as a postgraduate student in Florida. These days, the senior vice president in charge of Baidu Inc.’s autonomous driving efforts is far better paid. He’s also a man on a mission: To push China to the forefront of the coming driverless-car era.

Baidu joins a crowded field. Google Inc., which started developing autonomous cars in 2009, has tested self-driving vehicles for more than 2 million miles and is considering making its self-driving car unit a stand-alone business under the Alphabet Inc. corporate umbrella later this year. Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has said his customers will be able to summon an electric car to drive autonomously from Los Angeles to New York within two years. General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. are also in hot pursuit of this emerging market.

Undeterred, Wang, 51, sees a level playing field in the coming era of intelligent, autonomous cars–and one that China is capable of dominating.

“Chinese carmakers started making cars 100 years after others and a lot of the core technology aren’t in Chinese hands, such as engines” said Wang. “With electric cars, with intelligent cars, the core technology shifts from the engine and gearbox to artificial intelligence and that’s an area where China is very close to the U.S., giving China the chance to catch up and seize leadership.”

Robotic Brain

Robin Li, Baidu’s co-founder and chief executive officer, has invested heavily into a subfield of artificial intelligence known as deep learning, which aims to improve search results and computing tasks by training computers to work more like the human brain. The company hired Andrew Ng, a renowned computer scientist and expert in robotics and machine learning as Baidu’s chief scientist in May 2014.

Wang thinks the company can leverage its expertise in artificial intelligence, data mapping and Internet connectivity to excel in autonomous driving technology. Getting China into that game is a priority for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who sees digital technology as an opportunity for Chinese manufactures to become more innovative. At a global Internet forum last month, Xi made the point of visiting Baidu’s stand, where he listened to Baidu CEO Li discuss autonomous car development.

It may take time for Chinese companies to scale up in this business, according to Cao He, an analyst with Minzu Securities in Beijing. “There is a long way ahead for Baidu and other companies trying to mass produce and sell autonomous driving cars,” said Cao. “Given the wide diversity of road conditions from one place to another, it is unlikely for any company to come up with a sizable industry operation within five years.”

That said, there could be a lot of money at state. Baidu estimates that the Chinese market for car sales, buses, taxis and related transportation services is potentially worth more than $1.5 trillion a year in revenue. Getting a sliver of that could be a huge new revenue source for China’s biggest search engine company.

Bloomberg

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Paystack Stripe: Stripe Pays Over $200 Million to Acquire Nigerian Paystack Startup

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Stripe Acquires Paystack for Over $200 Million

Stripe, American financial services, and online payment processing for internet businesses headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, is in the process of acquiring Paystack, a Nigerian based online payment processing startup.

While the terms of the deal are not in the open, sources familiar with the deal said Stripe is paying over $200 million to acquire the Nigerian startup.

Paystack presently has about 60,000 customers that cut across small businesses, fintechs, schools, online betting companies and larger corporations. The sources said the plan will be to continue operating independently in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. Suggesting this is one of the reasons Stripe raised $600 million in funding earlier this year to expand its API-based payments services into more regions.

There is enormous opportunity,” said Patrick Collison, Stripe’s co-founder and CEO, in an interview with TechCrunch. “In absolute numbers, Africa may be smaller right now than other regions, but online commerce will grow about 30% every year. And even with wider global declines, online shoppers are growing twice as fast. Stripe thinks on a longer time horizon than others because we are an infrastructure company. We are thinking of what the world will look like in 2040-2050.”

Shola Akinlade, the CEO of Paystack said the deal will help the company expand in Nigeria and beyond. “Paystack was not for sale when Stripe approached us,” said Akinlade, who co-founded the company with Ezra Olubi (who is the CTO).

For us, it’s about the mission. I’m driven by the mission to accelerate payments on the continent, and I am convinced that Stripe will help us get there faster. It is a very natural move.

The deal is expected to boost the attractiveness of Nigerian startups, especially the fast-growing fintech industry.

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Facebook, Namibian Blood Transfusion Service (NamBTS), Others Partner to Boost Blood Donations in Namibia

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Facebook, Others Partner to Improve Blood Donations in Namibia

Facebook Inc, the world’s leading social media giant, has partnered the Namibian Blood Transfusion Service (NamBTS) and the Ministry of Health and Social Services to launch a new feature to encourage people to donate blood.

This means, starting from today people between the ages of 18 – 66 now have the option to sign up as blood donors on Facebook, be notified when blood donor centres near them have an urgent need for donations and invite friends to donate as well.

Accordingly, the same feature was launched in Chad, Guinea and Mali today, meaning Facebook blood donating feature is now available in 12 Africa nations. Other African nations enjoying the feature are Senegal, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Niger, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The program that was first launched in 2017 has now attracted more than 70 million people who have signed up on Facebook to donate blood through partnerships centres around the world.

Speaking on the initiative, Kojo Boakye, Public Policy Director Facebook Africa, said: “COVID-19 has changed how and where people can give blood, causing countries around the world to experience shortages of voluntary blood donations at this critical time. In keeping with our Mission, we recognized the role Facebook can play in connecting people that want to donate blood with opportunities to do so. The partnership with the Namibian Blood Transfusion Service (NamBTS) and Ministry of Health and Social Services is such an important one. We strongly believe it will enable Namibians to make a positive impact to the blood donation ecosystem in the country.

Zita Tobin, Manager, Donor Recruitment and PR for NamBTS said: “We are truly excited by the partnership with Facebook the tool will assist us bolster our blood collections during the pandemic and beyond, as only 1% of the population donate blood”

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Roblox to Go Public with $8 Billion Valuation Following $150 Million Series G Funding at $4 Billion

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Roblox Preparing to Go Public with $8 Billion Valuation

According to the research data analyzed and published by Safe Betting, Roblox is preparing to list on the US stock market at a valuation of $8 billion. In February 2020, the gaming giant raised $150 million during a Series G funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

According to InvestGame, Q1 to Q3 2020 has seen the gaming industry receive a total of $20.5 billion in investments. Of this figure, public offerings accounted for around $6.05 billion.

Roblox Game Adopt Me! Draws over 10 Billion Visits As Consumer Spend Nears $103 Million in May 2020

Other noteworthy IPOs that have taken place include those of Unity Software, Kakao Games and Archosaur Games. Unity raised $1.3 billion at a $13.6 billion valuation while Kakao raised $330 million and Archosaur at $280 million. Applovin, Krafton Playtika, tinyBuild, Huuuge and People CAN Fly are among others planning IPOs.

Roblox has had a great 2020 with some of its popular games hitting spectacular records. For instance, Adopt Me! hit a peak of 1.615 million concurrent users and 10 billion visits in H1 2020. Piggy had over 5,000 plays by the end of July 2020 following its January 2020 launch. Roblox developers expect to earn $250 million on the hub in 2020, up by 127% from 2019’s $110 million. Its monthly active users increased from 115 million in February to 164 million in July according to RTrack.

Moreover, based on a report from Sensor Tower, player spending on Roblox increased 28% month-over-month in March 2020 and 34% in April 2020. In May, the game’s revenue hit a peak of $102.9 million.

The Roblox app hit $1.5 billion in lifetime revenue in June 2020. App Annie revealed that in Q2 2020, it ranked second in global consumer spend. In Q3 2020, it ranks it as the 4th highest grossing game globally on both the App Store and Play Store.

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