China’s BYD plans to be building self-driving cars within three years
‘The new era of intelligent vehicles has arrived and by 2035, they will dominate the streets,’ says chairman and president Wang Chuanfu
BYD, China’s leading electric vehicle maker, is aiming to launch its first self-driving cars within three years, in partnership with mainland internet giant Baidu.
Wang Chuanfu, BYD’s chairman and president, said after securing a pole position in the electric car sector, it now plans to focus attention on building intelligent vehicles, or what he described as “super mobile phones on wheels”.
“As the auto industry makes new cars smarter, great changes will take place in people’s daily life,” he told a developer conference in Shenzhen on Wednesday.
“The new era of intelligent vehicles has arrived and by 2035, they will dominate the streets.”
Wang did not elaborate on the number of self-driving cars BYD aims to make initially.
Part-owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, BYD was created in the 1990s, initially as a battery manufacturer before it started building vehicles in 2003.
In April, it joined the “Project Apollo” platform launched by Baidu last year, one of the world’s largest and most diversified open self-driving alliances.
Intelligent vehicles, also known as internet cars, use the latest technology such as artificial intelligence, GPS maps and other functions normally found in smartphones to offer navigation, in-car entertainment and related value-added services including car maintenance information, to drivers and passengers.
By using advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS) and other such sophisticated sensing equipment, self-driving cars are capable of navigating without human input.
Baidu president Zhang Yaqin said BYD’s “Qin Pro”– a plug-in hybrid expected to hit the market this month – will be used to road test the Apollo platform.
“It is an ambitious plan to mass produce self-driving cars in just three years,” said Cao Hua, a partner at investment group Unity Asset Management.
“Electrification and digitalisation are surely the car industry’s future and BYD definitely wants to take a front-running position.”
Baidu and its mainland internet rivals Alibaba and Tencent are all revving up their development of next-generation vehicles.
Alibaba, owner of South China Morning Post, partnered with SAIC Motor in July 2016 to develop the Roewe RX5 sport-utility vehicle based on the ALIOS operating system, claiming it to be the world’s first mass-produced internet car.
While Tencent has teamed up with a group of key industry players including Chinese electric carmaker Nio to accelerate development of advanced driver assistant systems.
BYD posted a net profit of 479 million yuan (US$70 million) in the first half of this year, down 72 per cent from a year earlier. It sold 75,800 new energy vehicles from January to June, a 121 per cent surge for the period.
Late last year Wang announced BYD’s ambitions to create a new-energy corporate behemoth with sales of a trillion yuan by 2025, more than nine times its revenue last year.