Oct 24, 2018 06:07 PM

Wednesday Tech Briefing: Mafengwo, Faraday Future, Baidu

1. Mafengwo Eyes Nasdaq IPO Despite Fake-Review Scandal

Chinese travel review platform Mafengwo expects to proceed with its plan for a U.S. IPO despite a brewing fake-review scandal.

Mafengwo is under fire for allegedly using bots and hired writers to scrape millions of user reviews from rivals such as Ctrip, Meituan-Dianping, Agoda and Yelp. Mafengwo has disputed the allegations and sued some of its accusers.

Mafengwo Vice President Yu Zhuo told Caixin that the incident won’t affect the company’s operations and it expects to list shares on Nasdaq in two to three years. (Caixin)

2. China Tesla Rival Plans Layoffs After Evergrande Funding Fight

Chinese electric vehicle maker Faraday Future is laying off employees and cutting staff salaries by 20% due to "financial difficulty" following a row with its property-tycoon backer, Bloomberg reports.

The measures are temporary and compensation will be restored once the company secures new funding. Its founder and erstwhile billionaire Jia Yueting will now take an annual salary of $1 starting Oct. 16.

The announcement occurred days after the falling out between Faraday and its new backer, China’s third-richest man Hui Ka Yan, came to light. Evergrande Health Industry Group Ltd., a unit of Hui’s real estate empire, said earlier this month it has engaged lawyers to defend the company’s interests after Jia began arbitration in Hong Kong. (Bloomberg)

3. China's Uber for Trucks Closes in on $1 Billion Round

Full Truck Alliance Group is close to securing as much as $1 billion in new funds to replenish its war chest and jumpstart an expansion into driverless technology, Bloomberg reports.

China’s biggest online marketplace for long-haul deliveries is in advanced negotiations with new and existing backers including SoftBank Group Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. on funding that could hike its valuation by as much as 40% to $9 billion, still lower than the initial target of $10 billion.

Truck Alliance, created by the merger of Huochebang and Yunmanman last year, is building up its marketplace to connect millions of mostly independent truckers. (Bloomberg)

4. Driverless Tech Start-Up Aims to Replace 15 Million Truckers in US and China

Chinese artificial intelligence start-up TuSimple has deployed autonomous trucks on commercial runs between Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, as the company prepares to expand its operations in the world’s two largest economies by next year.

That trial program in the US, where its two trucks transport consumer goods at speeds of up to 104.6 kilometers per hour (65 mph), is generating about US$6,600 a week in revenue, giving TuSimple a toehold in the vast US freight market.

Various Chinese hi-tech firms are looking to develop so-called level-four autonomous driving trucks and cars. That means these vehicles should be able to slow down, pull over or park at a safe spot if a human driver does not take control when prompted, according to industry guidelines set by the Society of Automotive Engineers. (SCMP)

5. Telecoms Call for AI Help in Fraud Fight

China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd. is stepping up efforts to crack down on telecom fraud by using big data and AI technologies. It also partnered with internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. earlier this year to build a big data lab to beef up information security.

The companies will work together to target financial fraud, and intercept “illegal and troubling information” by investing resources in cross-platform data aggregation, data mining capabilities, and other network security technologies.

In 2017, there were more than 596,000 cases of telecom and internet fraud in China, causing economic losses of 13.1 billion yuan ($1.9 billion). (China Daily)

6. Baidu to Debut Simultaneous Machine Translation in Latest Challenge to Google

Baidu, operator of China’s largest search engine, has thrown down the gauntlet to Google with the upcoming debut of its first simultaneous translation system. Baidu claims its system will be able to translate 40 languages in close to real time.

Baidu, which started investing in AI about seven years ago, has products that include the open-source autonomous driving platform Apollo, voice-activated operating system DuerOS, smart speakers, and a pocket translator. (SCMP)

Compiled by Hou Qijiang and Qian Tong

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