With the continuous adoption and promotion of technologies such as AI and 5G in the automotive field, autonomous driving is something many companies are trying to achieve in the near future. With the relaxation of laws and regulations on autonomous vehicles and the continuous landing of autonomous driving technologies and products, the global autonomous vehicle market is expected to reach US$60 billion by 2030.
Just a few nations are leading the race when it comes to autonomous driving, and China is there at the top. China is on an upward trajectory when it comes to testing out autonomous vehicles. At present, Internet giants in China along with traditional car manufacturers have been leading the research work on driverless cars. China has specific plans for intelligent connected vehicles in stages. In 2016, the China Association of Automotive Engineers officially released the technical standards in the field of autonomous driving- “Technology Roadmap for Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicles.”
According to reports, the Electronic Information Department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in China is currently focusing on the core task of building an intelligent computing architecture for automobiles. The industrial ecosystem will work around high-bandwidth data and communication technology, product research and development of high-end sensors and smart chip controllers. The framework will work as a demonstration service platform for automotive applications.
China’s Autonomous Cars Are Expanding Fast In Niche Applications
Participating companies in autonomous vehicles are mainly divided into two categories: Internet companies and vehicle manufacturers. Among internet companies, Baidu is undoubtedly the leader in the field of Chinese autonomous driving. Baidu Autonomous Driving Division was established on December 14, 2015, and the division is determined to bring driverless cars from the research stage to the stage of commercial development and monetization. In March 2017, Baidu established the Intelligent Driving Business Group, president and chief operating officer of Baidu Group, also serving as general manager. Baidu’s layout in the field of Internet of Vehicles mainly includes maps, in-vehicle systems, and vehicle-road collaboration.
The company introduced its Apollo platform for autonomous car vendors, which combines hardware and software and service systems, including vehicle platforms, hardware platforms, software platforms, and cloud data services. In addition, Baidu also actively promotes research and application of autonomous driving with other partners. For example, Baidu signed a cooperation agreement with TomTom, a Dutch car navigation software manufacturer, and plans to develop high-precision maps, mainly for autonomous driving. At present, Baidu has made good progress in the research and development of L4-level autonomous buses, taxis and passenger cars.
Another company is AutoX, a startup developing autonomous driving technology out of Shenzhen. Funded by investors like Alibaba, Shanghai Motor and Dongfeng Motor, AutoX is another rising player in the multi-trillion U.S. dollar Chinese autonomous driving vehicles market. AutoX has also received approval from Shanghai authorities to roll out a fleet of 100 autonomous ride-hailing cars to operate in Shanghai’s Jiading district.
The autonomous driving tech company also collaborated with Alibaba’s AMAP — a Chinese mapping service provider to launch its RoboTaxi ride-hailing service in Shanghai recently. AMAP is a Chinese super app with almost 500 million active monthly users. AutoX has also built an 80,000 square feet RoboTaxi operations centre in Shanghai to help support operations of its driverless vehicle fleet, as well as act as a centre to collect data from daily activities.
General Market For Autonomous Cars Is Still Nascent In China
The driverless system consists of sensors, processors, and actuators, of which the data processing algorithm is the most critical. Due to the high cost, the manufacturing rate of the Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) system in China is low at this stage. Most of the the vehicles in China are not equipped with ADAS equipment, and the market space is still nascent but still huge.
With the increasing demand for driving convenience and safety of car owners and the continuous reduction of the cost of electronic components, China’s ADAS market is expected to fast expand. McKinsey predicts that China has the potential to become the world’s biggest market for autonomous vehicles. In its estimation, autonomous vehicles can account as high as 66 per cent of the passenger-kilometres travelled in 2040, creating market revenue of $1.1 trillion from mobility services and $0.9 trillion from sales of autonomous vehicles by that year.
At present, China’s autonomous driving technology is at the leading level in the world with companies like Baidu, Auto X, Xiaoma Zhixing, and Didi Chuxing. Survey data shows that the Chinese market’s preference for autonomous driving is 60%, which is much higher than the world, indicating that China’s acceptance of new technologies such as autonomous driving exists. Huge car sales and consumer demand for technology are expected to make China the largest driverless market.
Overall, the domestic traditional car companies are relatively conservative and stable on the process of autonomous driving technology, and have reached a basic consensus on achieving L3 level automatic driving in 2020, and will enter the L4 level in 2025.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.