Shenzhen joins race to be global hub for autonomous driving industry

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2016, 5:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 June, 2016, 10:24am

Shenzhen is joining the race to become a global hub for the autonomous driving industry, with an industrial base focusing on self-driving technology to be launched next year in the city’s Nanshan district.

The project, with a total investment of 10 billion yuan planned through to 2020, is backed by the Shenzhen Front Investment Bank (SFIB), a financial institution under the National School of Development at Peking University, one of the country’s top government think tanks in economic policy research. SFIB was established in January with the aim of funding projects and startups in cutting-edge technology industries.

The autonomous driving industrial base, the first project for SFIB, is also backed by the Investment Promotion Agency of the Ministry of Commerce, Bric Motor Corporation, and several other research and investment institutions, according to Wang Lejing, co-founder of SFIB.

If the Shenzhen project to incubate autonomous driving development succeeds, Wang said the SFIB would apply the same model in the funding of other frontier industries.

“The industrial base in Shenzhen is designed to form an industrial cluster of autonomous driving in China,” Wang said. “This indus

try still lacks uniform standards for autonomous driving so many countries and regions across the world aspire to become the global leader for this cutting-edge industry,” he said.

Launching such an industrial base in Shenzhen – known as China’s innovation hub – would be a a beacon to attract talent and startups in autonomous driving from across the world, Wang said. “We want to send a clear signal to global talent in the sector, especially those Chinese specialists in artificial intelligence, to come here to start a career in China where we will offer an office, home, funds and help them approach the mainland market,” he said.

Wang said China lags behind Western countries in intelligent manufacturing sectors like robots and automation, but he believes the nation will be at the forefront of global initiatives to commercialise autonomous driving.

“We are at the same level as developed countries like Japan and the United States as the government keeps pushing innovation and technological development,” he said.

Wang said about 7 billion yuan of capital has been made available so far, with most of it from central government owned and state-run enterprises, as well as domestic investors.

The 1.5 million square metre industrial base will include several high-rise buildings to accommodate up to 1,000 tech startups, as well as a trial zone to test autonomous driving in public transportation applications and a race track for driverless vehicles. Apartments and schools to accommodate workers and their families will also be provided.

We are at the same level as developed countries like Japan and the United States as the government keeps pushing innovation and technological development
Wang Lejing, co-founder of SFIB

The SFIB wants to attract R&D teams specialising in artificial intelligence algorithms, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), advanced sensors such as radars, control panels and videocams, driverless technology, and mobile applications for automobiles.

“We have 3 billion yuan of funds specifically designed to support technology companies operating in the industrial base,” Wang said.

As well as the focus on technology development, a Formula 1-style race for driverless vehicles is planned for next year, with teams from across the world invited to participate. “These tech companies can integrate their technology into a [driverless] car and show off their strength to their world peers,” Wang said.

The total number of vehicles in China reached 279 million last year, including 124 million private cars.

In 2015, a survey by consulting firm Roland Berger found that 96 per cent of Chinese citizens would consider using an autonomous vehicle for their day-to-day transportation, whereas only 58 per cent of Americans said the same.

Morgan Stanley has predicted that widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles would contribute US$1.3 trillion to the American economy through cost savings from reduced fuel consumption and fewer accidents, including US$507 billion in productivity gains because people could do work while commuting instead of focusing entirely on driving.