Boston's first robotaxi trial. Honda-SenseTime. Industrial 3D printing market map.
Will it vend?
In keeping with our coverage on auto commerce, this week features an agreement between Ford, the American automaker that revolutionized the 20th century economy, and Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce conglomerate that has taken a commanding role in the 21st.
Ford will explore selling vehicles through Alibaba’s online Tmall retail platform, possibly delivering vehicles through automated vending machines (a la Carvana and supercars in Singapore).
While big software companies chase autonomy, other major tech and e-commerce firms are expanding their plays in auto commerce.
Amazon has been staffing up in Europe, possibly for a push into online auto sales. The company has expanded into parts retailing and rolled out a vehicle research portal in the US. Facebook’s increasingly popular classifieds service has evolved into a dedicated auto section on its Marketplace.
Although online used car transactions have become commonplace through various models, new car online and direct-to-consumer transacting is still largely untouched (beyond Tesla).
Physical touchpoints provided by auto dealerships (and regulatory protections) remain vital, but as demographics shift consumers may grow increasingly comfortable with completing the actual transaction online.
The question is who will own that customer touchpoint, and the lucrative services revenue stream after the purchase decision.
Voting for this round closes Sunday – you can vote on the bracket page here.
Tesla confirms AI chip project
The EV maker has no shortage of items on its to-do list (not the least of which involves producing several hundred thousand Model 3s). However, at a machine learning conference this week Elon Musk confirmed yet another initiative: Tesla’s own AI processing hardware.
The project has been an oft-rumored one, with Tesla hiring AMD and Apple microprocessor engineer Jim Keller early last year. Musk did not specify whether the chips would be widely sold or remain proprietary, but the company’s own vehicles would be a logical application.
The market for specialized AI hardware extends far beyond autonomous vehicles, but AVs are considered a prime use case (given their processing demands combined with vehicle-imposed power and cooling constraints).