Autonomous driving startup AutoBrain to start Level-3 car sales in 2020

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 (Image credit: AutoBrain)

Beijing-based autonomous driving company AutoBrain and Chinese auto manufacturer Great Wall Motors have developed a prototype Level 3 (L3) self-driving car, which they plan to release on the market by 2020, reports 36Kr.

L3 autonomous vehicles are able to take full control of driving and operate when certain conditions are met—for example when driving on freeways.

The safety of Level 3 systems has been questioned. US internet giant Google decided against taking the self-driving technology to market after it found in testing that human drivers were too trusting and slow to take over control from the system when an emergency arose. Google instead decided to pursue higher levels of autonomy.

“We were in talks over manufacturing L3 vehicles with original equipment manufacturers as early as 2016,” 36Kr cites Peng Yongsheng, co-founder and CEO of AutoBrain, as saying. He said the company began testing vehicles for commercial use in 2017.

AutoBrain says its L3 vehicle will be the first to be mass-produced in China. A spokesperson from AutoBrain confirmed the plan to TechNode, but would not elaborate further.

Great Wall’s role in the project relates primarily to car design. Adapted from Great Wall’s premium Wey VV7 model, the prototype has passed small-scale tests on a closed test track, as well as on an expressway in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. Key components include the laser-based distance measuring LIDAR system and GPS location module, which are made by AutoBrain.

According to AutoBrain, the vehicle’s L3 system is capable of staying in one lane, overtaking other cars, and avoiding obstacles at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. AutoBrain claims to have driven for nearly 1 million kilometers without accidents.

AutoBrain also has an R&D center in Silicon Valley, which is led by co-founder Yolanda Du, a former engineer on Tesla’s AutoPilot team. AutoBrain announced an agreement with UC Berkeley DeepDrive (BDD) center in August as part of its efforts to develop autonomous driving technologies in an industry-academia partnership.