We’re Shortening Development By Two Years: LeAutoLink CTO On LeEco, Aston Martin Super Car [Q&A]

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Speculation over the LeEco-backed Aston Martin electric super car has been building since the two companies announced in January their intention to release the vehicle by 2018.

While the US has led the development of connected, autonomous and electric vehicles, China is playing a hasty catchup game, backed by the country’s cashed-up tech giants.

According to Rao Hong, the CTO of LeAutoLink, part of LeEco’s Super Electric Ecosystem (SEE) Plan, development on the super car has been shortened from a five-year project to a three year project, with an indirect partnership from electric vehicle startup Faraday Future.

Technode sat down with LeAutoLink CTO Rao Hong to discuss what’s next for the LeEco car project from the software side:

What’s the current progress on the Le Super Car?

The typical car development cycle is about 4-5 years, and are trying to shorten the development cycle, our estimation is about 3 years. We are going to have some announcements next month at the Beijing auto show but that’s still [the] very early stage of the prototyping.

What are the different roles being played by Aston Martin and Faraday Future?

Aston Martin is a traditional car manufacturer and Faraday Future is a new startup company building electric cars, so its fits our overall strategy. Our partnership with Aston Martin is to bring in the internet of vehicle technology, autonomous drive technology as well as electrical power systems and transmission systems. 

[Faraday] are new, they have leadership coming from Tesla so they know how to build electric cars. We are helping with the internet of vehicle aspect and we also work with them on autonomous driving . This is the beauty of [the partnerships]. We can look at it from the traditional car industry, and from the internet technology perspective. 

You do R&D in the US while LeEco and Faraday are China-funded. How difficult is it working cross-culturally on such a complex project?

Internally there is still a lot of fighting from cultural and background perspectives. We have people from the car industry saying we should go one way and the internet people saying another way, but it’s part of the challenge, a challenge comes up and then we can work on something new. The process is challenging but it helps us understand different cultures and backgrounds. The good thing is we all have the same goal: we want to change the car.

We have people locally in the US, and we try to let them manage themselves, we are just here to facilitate their activities…It’s their area of expertise, so they go ahead, we just ask what they need. When it comes to the internet and autonomous driving, both sides have to collaborate. There will be a lot of arguing and fighting [Laughs].

How do you see Chinese electric vehicles, autonomous cars and connected cars against US prototypes being built by companies like Alphabet [Google]?

We work closely with Google, they’ve invited us to see their demo system. The industry is at the dawn of change, [in regards to] people, the car industry and the IT industry. It’s a big industry compared with some other LeEco industries.

We have a strong presence in China… Google apparently they are leading in autonomous driving, they have very good maps in the US, but not that good in China, they have some government issues. Our goal is to deploy cars globally. China is the biggest market for the car. We believe we have the advantage. China and the US are the two biggest markets. They are together probably one third of the global car market.

Will China be able to play catch up?

China is picking up, we believe that in the near future we will be a lot better than we are today. China has always played a catchup role, but when it comes to electric cars the advantage the traditional car companies have is not that big, electric cars in China are already leading in some ways…we are also in a good position when it comes to telecommunications.

LeAutoLink already collaborates with Aston Martin, BYD and Faraday Future, what sort of partnerships are you looking to forge in the future?

A lot. [We are] talking with a quite a few companies, our goal is not just to be in connected cars, we want to build the internet of cars ecosystem. So we are talking with pretty much everybody. We are still very young as a startup company, trying to figure out how and when to collaborate.

See Related: LeEco, Aston Martin To Release Electric Vehicle By 2018

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