All eyes on driverless cars at Beijing Auto Show

27 Apr

Google and China’s Baidu, Changan Automobile, and Baic Motor have revealed timetable for the mass production of their driverless cars at the ongoing Beijing Auto Show, during which several automobile makers debut their driverless vehicles.

Zhu Huarong, president of Changan Automobile, said the company has completed the testing of the first stage of its self-driving car — assisted driving. The second stage, partial automation, is expected to be completed in 2017 and 2018. Zhu said his company expects to accomplish the third stage, high automation, in around 2020 and the fourth stage, full automation, in 2025.

Li Yusheng, chief engineer at Changan Automobile, said the company will in 2018 start mass producing driverless cars designed for highway travel. To achieve this goal, Li said the company is working with Bosch and China’s Tsinghua University to advance technology. The auto company is also planning on using the mass produced components such as millimeter-wave radar and cameras to reduce cost.

Meanwhile at Baic Motor, Rong Hui, assistant to president, said his company is slated to put a driverless car into commercial use by the end of this year. In addition, Baic Motor exhibited four self-driving vehicles at the auto show. To lower the cost of sensors in order to achieve mass production soon, Baic Motor adopted four sets of technology involving laser radar, millimeter-wave radar, cameras and GPS to optimize the combination of cost and functions.

 

Baidu to mass produce self-driving cars in five years

Google and Chinese web services firm Baidu attempted self-driving cars in one single stage, instead of four as in Changan Automobile’s case. Google and Baidu devoted more advanced technology and higher investment to their respective developments. Take laser radar for example. Both Google and Baidu use the Velodyne HDL-64 laser rangefinder with a 360-degree field of view. The laser radar costs as much as 500,000 RMB (US$77,004.82); the high cost also becomes the largest obstacle for Google and Baidu to achieve mass production of their driverless ca

However, despite the high cost, Google and Baidu have both set up a timetable for the mass production. According to Google, its self-driving cars will be put into commercial use in 2020 and be mass produced in 2025. Baidu’s senior vice president, Wang Jing, who also oversees the autonomous car business, said Baidu’s driverless cars will come into commercial use in three years and achieve mass production in five years

The autonomous car market is led by the mainstream automobile manufacturers and leading component makers and IT companies. Three-way cooperation among companies from the three industries has also become a trend in the autonomous car development.

Changan Automobile Vice President Li Wei said his company has worked with Bosch, Huawei, 360, AutoNavi Map and Baidu. In late March this year, Changan Automobile and Baidu signed a strategic cooperation agreement to deepen their cooperation in the area of smart vehicles. In terms of keeping the cars connected, Baidu will provide Changan Automobile with three platforms, CArLIFE, MyCar and CoDrive. Baidu will also provide high-definition maps and other applications for Changan Automobile’s driverless technology.

 

Google said in early 2015 that it was looking for a manufacturing partner for its development of the driverless technology. It was previously rumored that Google was to set up a joint venture with Ford for driverless cars R&D, but Ford was tight-lipped at the CES in January. John Krafcik, who oversees Google’s self-driving cars division, said earlier this year that finding a partner for the driverless cars development would be their top mission this year.

 

According to Chinese media, the auto show attracted over 1,600 manufacturers from 14 countries and regions and showcased 1,179 vehicles; of which, 112 cars were making their debut.

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