Zoom towards the ‘golden inflection point of growth’

The autonomous driving industry is driving technology and policy into a bright future

Car-filled roads and highways but zero emissions, traffic jams and fatigued drivers – this futuristic vision is slowly but surely materializing in China as the country’s self-driving industry is on the verge of a golden period of development, said company executives and experts. .

They said policies are becoming clearer and more open; Technologies such as artificial intelligence and their applications such as algorithms are becoming more and more powerful; What’s more, the costs of core components such as lidar are declining.

All this bodes well for the healthy and vigorous development of the industry and the commercialization of its products and technologies. So do a large number of recently introduced policies to regulate the development of autonomous driving in the world’s largest car market.

As more autonomous vehicles start on the road, experts highlight the need for more legal action, better coordination of roads and vehicles and more testing expertise to ensure the sector’s long-term sustainable development.

The self-driving industry is approaching a “golden inflection point for growth,” as central and local government policies are becoming more open and explicit, said Jia Yuanhua, professor of transportation engineering at the School of Traffic and Transportation at Beijing Jiaotong University.

On September 16, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology revealed a guideline to promote the building of industry standards for Internet-connected vehicles. The guideline explained that by 2025, China will form systematic industrial standards for Internet-connected vehicles that can support high-level autonomous driving.

The move came shortly after China announced its first national draft of a guideline on the use of self-driving vehicles in public transportation in August. The Department of Transportation said in the guideline that it will encourage the adoption of self-driving buses in Closed Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, and allow self-driving vehicles to provide taxi services under relatively simple and controllable scenarios.

Starting on August 1, Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, a leading city in China’s reform and opening-up, began allowing fully autonomous vehicles, without human drivers, to operate on certain roads, as the city unveiled the country’s first regulation designed specifically for intelligence. and vehicles connected to the Internet.

The regulation also established liability rules for car accidents involving self-driving vehicles with or without a driver, helping to bridge the legal gap in China’s smart car industry.

China is improving its legal framework for research, development, production, purchase and sale of self-driving vehicles, as the nation accelerates, said Zhang Zhenting, secretary-general of the Autonomous Driving Industry Alliance for the Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao Greater Bay Area. Marketing autonomous vehicles while ensuring public safety.

At the same time, technological developments are also laying a more solid foundation for the potential wider application of autonomous vehicles. Yu Qian, CEO and founder of the Chinese self-driving startup QCraft, said that automatic level sensors and computing power are developing rapidly, and the price of lidar used in self-driving cars has fallen dramatically, which is quite suitable for the large scale. Application of pre-configured autonomous driving systems to cars.

If the computing power is compared with the oxygen concentration in the environment, and the sensor data volume is compared to food, the oxygen concentration in the environment will increase and the food in the environment will be abundant, which makes the scenario very suitable for the development of high-level autonomous driving companies, Yu said.

Starting in July, QCraft and T3 began offering rides for passengers using self-driving cars within a restricted area in Suzhou County, Jiangsu Province, a city bordering Shanghai and where companies are already testing the vehicles.

Continued testing on public roads, easing regulations and lowering costs in autonomous vehicle manufacturing will help accelerate the commercialization of self-driving cars, said Liu Jinghong, intelligent mobility analyst at research firm BloombergNEF.

According to a report by BloombergNEF, China will operate the world’s largest robotic 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 cars, consulting firm McKinsey & Company said, which estimates that such vehicles will make up more than 40 percent of new car sales in China by 2040.

Data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology showed that 30 percent of new cars sold in the first half of this year feature Level 2 or driver assistance technologies. This means that about 3.61 million vehicles that hit the road from January to June already have functions such as lane keeping and cruise control.

Sensing great growth potential, Chinese traditional automakers, electric start-ups and Chinese technology companies are all ramping up their push and scaling up autonomous driving technologies.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp, for example, said it is running tests on 140 self-driving vehicles across the country, as part of its broader effort to tap the autonomous driving industry for future development. The progress came after Xiaomi announced its entry into the competitive electric vehicle market more than a year ago.

Li Jun, founder, president and CEO of Xiaomi, said the company plans to invest 3.3 billion yuan ($464.24 million) in the first research and development phase of self-driving technology, and the size of the dedicated team now exceeds 500. Through the end of the year, the team is expected to include More than 600 members.

Huawei Technologies Co. is also promoting self-driving ambition. In May, BAIC Bluepark premium electric brand Arcfox launched the Alpha S HI sedan, the world’s first model with Huawei’s Harmony operating system and autonomous driving solutions.

The model has 34 sensors including cameras, radar and Huawei’s Kirin chip that has a computing power of 400 terabytes per second. Yu Chengdong, head of Huawei’s smart car business unit, said the model features “the world’s most advanced autonomous driving device” among mass-produced vehicles.

Yu-kai, CEO of Horizon Robotics, the first Chinese company to commercialize self-designed processors for self-driving, said: “China is now the world’s most vibrant market for smart electric vehicles and the most competitive arena for global technology companies targeting intelligent driving. .We believe that China will also become A major source of innovation for the industry.”

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