Autonomous driving is reshaping operations and profit distribution in the automobile industry. In China, tech giants, traditional car makers, and startups are jumping into what has become an extremely heated race. AllChinaTech has picked out the top 5 driverless car makers in China to give a snapshot of China’s autonomous driving scene.
Among the three BAT tech behemoths in China – Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba – Baidu is the only one that placed a heavy bet on autonomous driving. The company started its driverless car project in 2013, with the Baidu Institute of Deep Learning responsible for its R&D.
Similar to Google, Baidu has a gigantic searching business, which helped the company develop cutting-edge artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies, both of which are crucial for autonomous driving.
Baidu’s autonomous car can now read traffic lights and run on urban roads. Baidu in September 2016 received a permit, the 15th in the world, from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, allowing Baidu to test its autonomous driving technologies in the U.S.
NextEV, arguably the hottest Chinese automobile startup, placed a bet on driverless cars.
In preparation for autonomous driving, NextEV in October last year obtained the permit to test autonomous driving technologies in Los Angeles, the 16th company to do so following a string of world leaders that included Google, BMW, and Baidu.
NextEV, founded in 2014, now has offices in 12 cities worldwide, including in Shanghai, London and Münich.
The company in December 2015 announced the appointment of Padmasree Warrior, the former CTO of Cisco, as the startup’s Chief Development Officer and US CEO.
The Shanghai-based company in November last year introduced the Nio EP9, the fastest electric car in the world.
Chinese tech giant LeEco, whose CEO Jia Yueting invested in Faraday Future, in 2014 announced its plans to make super cars.
In April 2016, LeEco brought out its very first concept driverless car, the LeSEE Super EV. In October the same year, LeEco showcased its LeSEE Pro electric vehicle, which will be closely integrated with the preexisting LeEco electronic ecosystem of smartphones and smart TVs.
However, the ambitious driverless car faced setbacks in November 2016, when Jia Yueting confessed that the company was facing funding challenges. Although the Chinese real-estate company Sunac China led the RMB 16.8 billion (USD 2.4 billion) investment into LeEco, it did not invest in either LeEco’s cash-burning electric car business or Faraday Future.
Shanghai-based SAIC Motor is one of the four largest state-owned Chinese automakers.
The company’s iGS car has achieved auto cruise and automatic car following functions when driving at speeds of 60 km/h to 120 km/h, and is set to reach Level 5 autonomous driving by 2025.
SAIC Motor’s autonomous driving technology is based on auto control, artificial intelligence, and visual computing, according to the company.
In 2015 it reached a strategic agreement with China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, jointly setting up a fund of RMB one billion (USD 154 million) to launch internet car projects.
Huawei, a leading Chinese smartphone maker, on Monday confirmed to the public its new endeavor in driverless cars.
It is using 5G technology to do autonomous driving field testing in Germany, according to Qiu Heng, President of Huawei Wireless Network Marketing Operations.
Major players like Google and Baidu use a pot-like lidar device on the top of cars for autonomous driving. This small but crucial navigation component can cost around USD 80,000 each.
Huawei’s R&D has recently been focusing on the Internet of Vehicles, with remote controlled brake pedals connected with 5G. A braking action of the driverless car in the front will trigger the same in the car behind it.
(Top photo from Baidu Images)