Bosch said on Monday it is co-developing a new generation of its advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) with Chinese self-driving car company WeRide, aiming for delivery in late 2023. The system has also secured the first pilot customer, which the German auto parts maker has yet to disclose. 

Why it matters: This is the latest example of German auto firms strengthening their in-car software offerings in the face of competition from Tesla and local peers like Huawei. 

Partnership with WeRide: Delivery of Bosch’s advanced driving technology is scheduled for late 2023 to an undisclosed Chinese car manufacturer. The tech will be similar to Tesla’s Autopilot system and enable cars to operate on both Chinese motorways and busy urban streets.

  • The two companies hope to secure two to three new clients by that time. Engineers are currently training and fine-tuning the automated driving algorithms running on production cars, Zheng Xinfen, a senior vice president of Bosch China, told reporters during a media event on Monday.
  • Bosch revealed its investment into WeRide in May when Tony Han, chief executive of the autonomous vehicle unicorn, told Chinese media that the collaboration would be the largest of its kind in terms of order volume in China.

An indispensable market: China has been leading the world in electric vehicle adoption and in-car technology development, said Xu Daquan, executive vice president of Bosch China, citing examples such as strong demand from local customers for automated driving software.

  • Xu noted that the auto parts maker has been facing urgent requests from local clients to deliver products as quickly as six months as a result of the rising consumer preference. “Accordingly, it makes sense for us to localize research and development with partners to meet the trend.”
  • Xu added that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s recent trip to Beijing reflected the stance of German industries on business relations with China. “China is such a big market, and it’s vibrant. In that sense decoupling from China should not be a pursuit of German businesses.”

Cash-burning competition: Looking to generate revenue from intelligent and connected car services, industry players have placed their cash on future areas such as autonomous driving and digitalization.

  • In April, Volkswagen opened a China subsidiary of its standalone software unit, Cariad, as the German automaker looks to develop products tailored for local customers. This was followed by a $2.3 billion investment to set up a joint venture with Chinese auto tech unicorn Horizon Robotics a few months later. Cariad recorded 978 million euros (roughly $1 billion) in losses for the first half of 2022.
  • US-listed Chinese EV trio Nio, Xpeng Motors, and Li Auto favor an in-house strategy. On Friday, Nio’s CEO William Li told analysts that he expected the company’s research and development expenses to remain steady at around RMB 3 billion ($430 million) each quarter, with no significant contribution from automated driving software to its gross margin.
  • Huawei has partnered with state-owned automakers BAIC and Changan in automotive software, in addition to selling EVs with automaker Seres. Meanwhile, big automakers SAIC and General Motors have turned to Chinese startup Momenta for partial automation technology.
  • Volkswagen in January announced a partnership with Bosch to develop automated driving software and use them on its vehicles since 2023, Reuters reported. Speaking to analysts during an earnings call on Oct. 28, Volkswagen’s CEO Oliver Blume said the partnership with Bosch will be “more for the Western world.”

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