Chinese company Tencent, which owns a 5 percent stake in Tesla, is developing its own self-driving technology separate from the California electric car builder's AutoPilot system.
According to Bloomberg's sources, the company is in the prototype stage with its autonomous technology. If the news is true, it would leapfrog Tesla, which currently offers Level 2 partial self-driving systems in its cars. Tencent's research may also provide fresh competition for its own partners.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously said fully self-driving cars will be ready by 2019, though the electric-car maker doesn't equip its current vehicles with Lidar units, which help the vehicle "see" its surroundings. Musk said at a TedTalks in April that Tesla's vehicles house all technology needed for full autonomy today without Lidar.
"Once you solve cameras for vision, autonomy is solved; if you don’t solve vision, it’s not solved…you can absolutely be superhuman with just cameras," Musk said back in April.
However, that technology doesn't exist today and Lidar remains the most important element.
Tesla remains busy working out bottleneck production issues over its more affordable Model 3, so it's unclear when we'll see the company's next big leap in self-driving technology. Meanwhile, the Chinese are catching up.