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Giant Philippines conglomerate Ayala Corporation, via its vehicle division AC Industrial Technology Holdings (ACITH), is ready to invest up to USD 100 million (RM403 million) in an effort to make the Philippines a hub for manufacturing self-driving cars in Southeast Asia.

The company is currently in discussion with “more than three” foreign car companies to form a joint-venture with the sum representing AC Industrials 50% initial share. This was said by Arthur Tan, ACITH head, in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review.

While refusing to reveal the names of the companies ACITH is negotiating with, saying that he was bound by non-disclosure agreements, Tan revealed discussions begun with Volkswagen in 2013 are still on-going. Tan said the joint-venture (JV) will manufacture autonomous cars, and he hopes to conclude negotiations and begin project preliminaries in three years.

Uber self-driving Ford Fusion-01

Tan also said the JV would not make ‘conventional cars’, a market already populated by Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. “We saw an opportunity where the automotive industry itself is being disrupted. The established manufacturing facilities are not set to produce these next-generation vehicles,” he said.

Ayala Corp also has Integrated Micro-Electronics (IMI), a business unit that manufactures automotive electronics, including cameras for autonomous cars. IMI recently acquired German firm VIA Optronics that manufactures optical bonding and display solutions that could find a place in vehicles.

“Ayala, with an ASEAN footprint, has an opportunity to now leapfrog the current established players in the region and set us apart in being the partner of choice for (car) companies,” said Tan.