Autonomous driving industry propels technology and policy into a bright future
Roads and highways full of vehicles but fewer emissions, traffic jams and stressed drivers – this futuristic vision is slowly but surely materializing in China as the country’s self-driving industry is poised to take off. entering a golden period of development, company executives and experts said.
Policies, they said, are becoming increasingly clear and open; technologies such as artificial intelligence and their applications such as algorithms are becoming increasingly powerful; and, what’s more, the costs of crucial components such as lidar are falling.
All of this bodes well for the healthy and robust development of the industry and the commercialization of its products and technologies. So too are a series of policies rolled out recently to regulate the development of self-driving in the world’s largest car market.
As more self-driving vehicles get ready to hit the road, experts point out that more legal action, better vehicle-road coordination and more testing experience are needed to ensure sustainability long term of the sector.
Jia Yuanhua, a professor of transportation engineering at Beijing Jiaotong University’s School of Traffic and Transportation, said the self-driving industry is approaching a “growth inflection point in gold”, as central and local government policies become increasingly open and clear.
On September 16, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology unveiled a directive to promote the construction of industry standards for Internet-connected vehicles. The guideline specifies that by 2025, China will set systematic industry standards for internet-connected vehicles that can support high-level autonomous driving.
The move followed shortly after China announced its first draft national guideline on the use of self-driving vehicles for public transport in August. The Department for Transport said in the directive that it will encourage the adoption of self-driving buses in closed bus rapid transit or BRT systems and enable self-driving vehicles to offer taxi services in simple and relatively controllable scenarios. .
From August 1, Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, a pioneering city in China’s reform and opening-up, also began allowing fully autonomous vehicles without human drivers to operate on certain roads, as the city unveiled the country’s first bylaw tailored to smart and internet-connected vehicles.
The regulation also established liability rules in car accidents involving driverless and driverless autonomous vehicles, helping to fill the legal void in China’s smart car industry.
Chang Zhenting, general secretary of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Autonomous Driving Industry Alliance, said China is improving its legal framework for research and development, production, buying and selling autonomous vehicles, as the nation accelerates the commercialization of autonomous vehicles while ensuring public safety.
At the same time, advances in technology are also laying a stronger foundation for potential larger-scale application of self-driving vehicles. Yu Qian, CEO and founder of Chinese self-driving startup QCraft, said automatic quality sensors and computing power are developing rapidly, and the price of lidars used in self-driving cars has dropped significantly, which is quite suitable for the large scale application of pre-equipped self-driving systems on automotive vehicles.
If the computing power is compared with the oxygen concentration in the environment, and the magnitude of the sensor data is compared with the food, then the oxygen concentration in the environment would increase and the food in the environment would be in abundance, which makes the scenario very appropriate. for the development of high-level self-driving enterprises, Yu said.
Starting in July, QCraft and ride-sharing company T3 began offering rides to passengers using self-driving cars in a restricted area of Suzhou in Jiangsu province, a city neighboring Shanghai and where companies are already testing the vehicles. .
Lyu Jinghong, smart mobility analyst at research firm BloombergNEF, said continued testing on public roads, easing regulations and reducing costs in manufacturing self-driving vehicles will help accelerate the commercialization of self-driving cars.
According to a report by BloombergNEF, China will operate the world’s largest robotaxi fleet with around 12 million units by 2040, followed by the United States, which is expected to have around 7 million autonomous vehicles.
China has the potential to become the world’s largest market for self-driving vehicles, said consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which estimates these vehicles will account for more than 40% of new vehicle sales in China by 2040.
Data from the Department of Industry and Information Technology showed that 30% of new vehicles sold in the first half of this year feature Level 2 or driver assistance technologies. This means that around 3.61 million vehicles hitting the road from January to June already have features such as lane keeping and cruise control.
Sensing the great potential for growth, Chinese mainstream automakers, emerging electric vehicle startups, and Chinese technology companies are all stepping up and doubling down on self-driving technologies.
Chinese smartphone vendor Xiaomi Corp, for example, said it was testing 140 self-driving vehicles across the country, as part of its broader drive to harness the self-driving industry for a better future. future development. The progress came after Xiaomi announced its entry into the competitive electric vehicle market more than a year ago.
Lei Jun, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Xiaomi, said the company plans to invest 3.3 billion yuan ($464.24 million) in the first phase of research and development of its self-driving technology, and that the size of the dedicated team now exceeds 500 people. the end of the year, the team should have more than 600 members.
Huawei Technologies Co is also stepping up its autonomous driving ambition. In May, Arcfox, BAIC Bluepark’s premium electric brand, launched the Alpha S HI sedan, the world’s first model with Huawei’s Harmony OS and self-driving solutions.
The model sports 34 sensors, including cameras and radar, and Huawei’s Kirin chip which has a computing power of 400 tera operations per second. Yu Chengdong, head of Huawei’s smart car business unit, said the model incorporates “the world’s most advanced self-driving hardware” among mass-produced vehicles.
Yu Kai, CEO of Horizon Robotics, the first Chinese company to commercialize self-designed processors for autonomous driving, said, “China is now the world’s fastest-growing market for intelligent electric vehicles and the most more competitive for global technology companies targeting smart driving. . We believe that China will also become a major source of innovation for the industry.”