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NEVs gear up toward intelligent driving

China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-21 09:36

Employees work on the assembly line of a new energy vehicle manufacturer in Chongqing. TANG YI/XINHUA

BEIJING — China's new energy vehicle manufacturers have achieved massive commercial success globally and they are now on a new frontier where electric vehicles are vying to become even "smarter".

This momentum is driven by the country's tech firms specializing in artificial intelligence and smart hardware as they're striving to reshape the landscape of the NEV market.

Smart cockpit

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi unveiled its first NEV model SU7 last year, and it is expected to enter the market this year.

During the launch ceremony, the CEO of the tech firm exhibited SU7's intelligent elements, which include a Zoom Bird's Eye View, large-scale road modeling and a navigation autopilot system slated to cover 100 Chinese cities by the end of 2024.

This was immediately after Huawei launched its second electric vehicle Aito M9. The six-seater SUV features a futuristic smart cockpit running on Harmony OS, Huawei's self-developed operating system that serves devices in an internet of things era.

M9's electric version is priced at above 500,000 yuan ($70,000) while a battery-electric minivan developed by Li Auto is expected to cost buyers the same.

A growing number of EV manufacturers in China have departed from low-price strategies that were once adopted by domestic carmakers. Instead, they have found success primarily through emphasizing the selling points of an intelligent driving experience, which has resulted in substantial order volumes.

Self-driving era

At the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show, which concluded recently in Las Vegas, five out of 35 laser radar (Lidar) manufacturers that took part in the exhibition came from China.

Shanghai-based startup HESAI Technology and Shenzhen-based RoboSense released ultra-long-range Lidar capable of achieving 300-meter standard range measurement.

A total of 36 Chinese automakers have adopted Lidar as of the third quarter of 2023 and as many as 106 Lidar-equipped models, or about 90 percent of the world's total, are expected to be launched in China, according to statistics from Yole Group, a semiconductor industry consultancy.

The rapid growth of Lidar is driven by the surge in demand for L2 and higher-level intelligent driving. L2 stands for partial automation in a six-level system of driving automation. The thriving Lidar market indicates the arrival of a self-driving era in China.

Last March, China approved the commercial operation of autonomous driving services, allowing Baidu and Pony.ai to provide fully driverless rides without a safety supervisor aboard in a 60-square-kilometer area of the Beijing Economic-Technological Development Area.

By the end of 2023, over 30 cities — including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou — had issued road test licenses for autonomous driving.

Expanding infrastructure

The rapidly growing intelligent NEV market is a result of the country's steady investment in tech infrastructure.

A 56-kilometer smart expressway has started operation as a test section near Suzhou, Jiangsu province. A section of this smart expressway, spanning 6.5 km, was designed for self-driving vehicles of L4 automation.

As of August 2023, more than 20,000 kilometers of test roads for autonomous driving have been opened nationwide.

Information and communication infrastructure including the 5G network, high-precision maps and internet of vehicles platforms are lending vital technical support for the rise of intelligent vehicles.

"Going intelligent is the second phase of the ongoing automotive revolution," said Zhang Yongwei, secretary-general of China EV100, an NEV industry think tank.

Without this approach, maintaining the first-mover advantage in the NEV industry becomes challenging, so car manufacturers must quickly join the trend to stay ahead, Zhang added.


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