As China’s car industry quickly embraces new energy vehicles, the country’s tech giants and startups are competing head-on with established global auto parts manufacturers to help automakers develop unique in-car software experiences and assistant driving features.
Tech majors like Huawei and Baidu are positioning themselves as automotive suppliers by providing comprehensive software systems along with a full range of electronic components for the smart, connected, and electric vehicles of the future. Meanwhile, global tier-1 suppliers Bosch and Continental are localizing more of their tech capabilities to adapt to the fast-changing Chinese market.
Here’s a roundup of some of the upcoming automotive tech that debuted at this year’s auto show in Shanghai.
Baidu: Seeking long-term ties with carmakers
Two years after setting up a dedicated unit to develop self-driving tech for consumer cars, Baidu made a strong commitment to automakers by declaring itself their “best partner” in smart, electric vehicles in China in a statement made on April 16 ahead of this year’s show.
Low-cost deployment is one of its major selling points. The search engine giant launched the Apollo City Driving Max on April 16, claiming it is by far its most powerful advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS). The AI giant also claims that the new system is the only pure vision-based approach for automated driving on Chinese urban roads, meaning it operates without the use of pricier lidar sensors.
Baidu also introduced its new high-definition mapping technology at a relatively lower cost than rivals, adopting a crowdsourced approach to compile map data to help EVs get around by themselves. “This is unique to Baidu,” said corporate vice president Rob Chu. The company expects such efforts to pay off in the long run, allowing it to form consistent and reliable partnerships with auto manufacturers.
Huawei: Competing against Tesla’s software offerings
Huawei has had a bumpy ride after making a splash at Auto Shanghai 2021 with the public debut of its assisted driving technology, as two of its major manufacturing partners – BAIC’s Arcfox and lesser-known Seres – have both found themselves facing lackluster sales.
On April 16, the technology giant unveiled the second generation of its Advanced Driving System, which was designed to let vehicles navigate not only on highways but also around complex city streets like Tesla’s full self-driving beta software. Huawei’s consumer business head Richard Yu made the announcement in Shanghai, claiming that the Chinese telecom firm has surpassed Tesla in handling on- and off-ramps among other traffic scenarios, according to its testing results.
The system will be released to users in at least 45 Chinese cities by the end of this year, where high-definition mapping services are currently unavailable to them.The system was built upon multiple sensors and cameras to reduce the reliance on mapping. A high-end version of the Aito M5 electric crossover is the first model to adopt the technology, while the Avatr 11, co-developed by Huawei and its partners Changan and CATL, and the Arcfox Alpha S will also adopt the system.
Bosch: Chinese OEMs a major growth driver
German auto supplier Bosch debuted its fourth-generation computing platform for in-car entertainment at the Shanghai auto show, highlighting the ongoing trend of cars relying on software to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.
Entirely developed by its Chinese team, the information domain computer has undergone four upgrades over the past two years, facilitating automakers’ fast and customized development of in-car applications, according to Dr. Markus Heyn, chairman of Bosch’s mobility solutions business sector. This also enables vehicle owners a seamless and smart cockpit experience both in the vehicle and on the cloud.
Heyn said he was personally impressed by the wide range of new brands and electric vehicles that are on display at this year’s Auto Shanghai. “I am extremely proud that Bosch is a part of this rapidly growing and evolving industry and serves as a global partner for our customers in China,” added Heyn. Chinese original equipment manufacturers (OEM) accounted for nearly 60% of the mobility solutions business sector of the engineering group’s total sales in China last year.
Continental: Keeping up with China’s fast transition to EVs
Continental on Wednesday showcased for the first time a high-performance computer that is capable of assisted driving and body control, giving carmakers a more agile process of software development. More than 30 new vehicle models will be using Continental’s supercomputing solution by 2024, the company said, with GAC’s EV unit Aion becoming one of its early adopters.
The German auto parts maker sees standardization as a strength in keeping up with China’s fast transition towards smart EVs. The company set up a joint venture with local startup Horizon Robotics back in late 2021.
“A lot of the cost in ADAS is coming from developing specific software. We figure out what is a common part and roll out standard components in a fast and cost-competitive way, and then we add some specific functions to make a difference,” said Frank Petznick, head of the autonomous mobility business area at Continental. “I think this is the key [to success] in China and many Western companies have not understood that yet.”
Horizon Robotics: Landing BYD as a major client
This year’s Auto Shanghai also reflected the rise of domestic suppliers. Horizon Robotics is one of the Chinese suppliers helping auto companies to secure their supply chain and reduce costs. Horizon said on Tuesday that it will team up with Chinese EV leader BYD to develop software and hardware systems for automated driving to use in the latter’s cars.
Multiple BYD cars will be manufactured later this year based on Horizon’s Journey 5, which is made specifically for computing in connected and intelligent vehicles. The move marks “a significant achievement” in the two companies’ strategic collaboration since 2021, according to Dr. Yu Kai, founder and CEO of Horizon Robotics.
Backed by a list of auto majors including Volkswagen, Horizon already supplies tech to automakers including Geely and Li Auto. The company also announced a partnership with EV maker Hozon Auto on Tuesday to build assisted driving platforms set to hit the market as early as 2024.