Arcfox, an electric vehicle brand launched by Chinese automaker BAIC, said it had started providing car users with its long-awaited Navigation Cruise Assist (NCA) software, a semi-autonomous driving feature developed on Friday by Huawei.

Why it matters: The introduction of Huawei’s automated driving capabilities comes nearly a year later than expected. It will test whether the Chinese telecommunications giant can provide a competitive edge for partnered EV makers.

Details: Starting Sept. 23, the NCA assistant driving feature has been available to owners of the “HI (Huawei Inside)” version of the Arcfox-branded Alpha S sports utility vehicles in Shenzhen. It will later be expanded to Beijing and Shanghai, a company spokesperson told Chinese financial media outlet Caixin, without giving a timeframe.

  • The feature allows Arcfox’s cars to change lanes and speed up or slow down on highways and city streets. It also controls acceleration and braking to maintain the desired distance between the SUV and the vehicle ahead, said an official statement.
  • Like other similar offerings from rivals such as Nio and Xpeng, the NCA uses a system of 34 sensors and cameras, along with high-definition maps, to realize virtually automated driving on Chinese urban streets.
  • As with its competitors, the system is qualified as an advanced driver assistance technology, meaning a driver is still required to take full responsibility for driving tasks and monitor the environment at all times.

Context: Chinese automakers have slowly increased the availability and capabilities of their intelligent driving systems, which are mostly built upon a high-definition map and subject to government approvals for using geographic data, Reuters reported.

  • Alibaba-backed Xpeng Motors, on Sept. 19, began testing City Navigation Guided Pilot software with selected drivers in its headquarters city of Guangzhou and is currently waiting for regulators to greenlight a wider release to other cities.
  • Arcfox’s driving software was initially set to be available to car owners on major provincial highways and China’s four top-tier cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen – by the end of 2021 and then to users from at least 20 major cities.
  • In April 2021, Chinese automaker BAIC showcased the Alpha S, a premium electric sedan under the Arcfox marque equipped with Huawei’s HI system. Vehicle deliveries began in July, after more than eight months of delay.
  • State-owned BAIC sold 6,723 Arcfox-branded vehicles in the first half of this year, falling far behind rivals. 
  • Shenzhen-based Huawei also collaborates with automakers Changan and Seres to enter the booming EV market.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen