Chinese EV players start competing on driver assistance technology


The Aito electric car brand co-developed by Huawei is now selling an updated version of the M5 model that comes with new driver assistance technology.

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BEIJING — Chinese companies are using assisted driving technology as a way to compete in the hot market for electric cars.

Around the Shanghai auto show that kicked off last week, Chinese electric car startups and tech companies made several announcements about their driver assistance technology.

It’s unclear how powerful the advertised features are and whether Chinese consumers want to buy them. Current regulations also limit the extent to which companies can allow technology to control driving.

But McKinsey believes assisted and fully autonomous driving systems in passenger cars could generate 300 to 400 billion dollars in global sales by 2035. China is the largest automotive market in the world.

Among recent announcements, Huawei said it will upgrade its driver assistance system for changing lanes on highways and parking – and expand support for city driving. The company said its new product, called “Huawei ADS 2.0”, costs 36,000 yuan ($5,218) on a one-time basis or 7,200 yuan per year.

The tech is slated for initial release on an upgraded Aito M5 — which is expected to begin deliveries in June — with future rollout on the Avatr 11 and Arcfox Alpha S. All three EVs come from brands that already integrate Huawei’s technology.

Li-Auto announced plans to roll out driver assistance technology to customers in 100 cities across China by the end of the year – a feature the company says will be “free for life”. This is according to a CNBC translation from Chinese.

These announcements and more follow by Xpeng deployment in recent weeks of driver assistance technology to some users in Shanghai. The technology claims to require drivers to do nothing more than keep their hands on the wheel, while the vehicle drives itself to a destination in the city, including stopping at traffic lights. Xpeng’s technology was previously only available in Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Such urban scenarios are becoming an area of ​​differentiation in China.

We recognize that as a startup, the only path to eventually achieve self-driving is to follow Tesla’s path.

Maxwell Zhou, CEO

You’re here does not offer its driver assistance technology in Chinese cities – a feature marketed overseas as “Full Self Driving”. Only the company’s Autopilot to assist highway driving is available in China.

“If you don’t offer [assisted driving tech] by next year it will be really impossible to compete,” Maxwell Zhou, CEO of self-driving software startup, told a few reporters last week in Mandarin. This is according to a translation by CNBC.

The company’s latest driver assistance software – used with cameras and other hardware – is expected to reach consumers this year, through passenger cars from “an established automotive brand”, the startup said. four years at the end of March, without sharing a name.

The card debate

One of DeepRoute’s selling points is that it does away with “high definition maps”. This allows a vehicle to use driver assistance technology on roads where these technical parameters were not created.

It’s a trend that automotive brands such as Xpeng and Huawei are pursuing – and Tesla’s strategy to develop self-driving.

Elon Musk’s car company has focused on using cameras and artificial intelligence to steer the vehicle, without relying heavily on HD maps.

These cards, used by self-driving companies such as Alphabet‘s Waymo, give a car a detailed picture of city streets. But they must be created before a car rolls down the road.

This process can drive up costs. DeepRoute’s Zhou estimated that each car for data collection would require an additional $100,000 and $30,000 a year to operate – for a total of around $2 billion or $3 billion, not including human labor costs.

“We recognize that as a startup, the only path to eventually achieve self-driving is to follow Tesla’s path,” Zhou said.

“Because as a startup, there’s no way to spend multi-billion US dollars just to buy cars, buy data. Waymo can do that,” he said. Zhou added that since China continues to repair its roads, it would be difficult to consistently provide cars with sufficiently accurate maps.

Too advanced for consumers?

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Most cars with advanced driver assistance technology only work on highways, while the few that can run on city streets are more expensive, said Zhang Xin, editor. executive of AutoR, an industry publication with over 110,000 Twitter followers. -like the Weibo platform.

Consumers who simply buy the most advanced technology may find that they don’t use it, he said. Zhang added that mapless driver assistance systems are not yet powerful enough to completely remove maps.

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