China’s Great Wall Motor (GWM) will bring its next-generation in-car operating system to market next year, and stick to the ambitious goal of rolling out its semi-autonomous driving function nationwide by the end of 2024, according to a press event held on Tuesday.
The company is undertaking a targeted push to create a scalable and unified software platform for future vehicle models across multiple different brands, a concept that has become mainstream in the years since Tesla entered the market. A significant increase in the number of software updates, aimed at improving the driving experience, is expected from next year, vice president Nicole Wu told TechNode at the event, held in the northern city of Baoding, where the company is headquartered.
China’s third biggest private automaker by sales volume, GWM had a relatively early start in autonomous driving and in-car technologies. It began testing self-driving cars with the creation of a dedicated division called Haomo.ai in 2019 and became the second Chinese automaker after Xpeng Motors to build a supercomputing center, this January. Now, the company has set up a new artificial intelligence research lab to bring generative AI tools into play in future car models.
Here are some of the highlights of TechNode’s interview with GWM executives, including vice president Nicole Wu, senior director Jiang Haipeng, director She Shidong, and Yang Jifeng, head of the AI lab.
Major digital cockpit progress
GWM will roll out an app store and implement it across all brands, as part of its upcoming in-car operating system, Coffee OS 3.0, scheduled for release in the first half of 2024. The store will give users access to common third-party services and infotainment apps fine-tuned for car-friendly usage, as more customers expect a smartphone-like experience in the car.
By working with smartphone makers such as Huawei and Xiaomi, the new system will allow drivers to use a handset while operating their vehicle. She Shidong added that owners will be able to play video games and watch movies in their cars by connecting gaming consoles, augmented-reality glasses or other devices, with the car dashboard using wireless or bluetooth connections.
By making constant updates of driving and infotainment features possible, the Coffee OS 3.0 is intended to take the in-car experience to a new level. Wu envisions each new GWM model getting a major software update every two to three months. Tesla and Nio released 2.8 and 1.3 software updates per month on average respectively in China during the first half of 2022, according to figures from domestic consultancy Ways.
Ambitious self-driving goal
GWM has maintained its goal of launching Navigate on HPilot (NOH), a function similar to Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) technology, to drivers in 100 cities around China by 2024. The software will first be available to owners of its Blue Mountain flagship SUVs in Beijing and Shanghai by next March, according to Jiang.
This will enable vehicles to change lanes, overtake, and make turns automatically on Chinese city streets without high-precision maps. Jiang added that a set of common middleware plays an important part in creating a platform for assisted driving software that is updateable and scalable at a reasonable cost.
Chinese auto and tech companies have been competing for a leading position in this space at a time when Tesla’s FSD function has yet to become available in the country. Xpeng’s XNGP advanced driver assistance system is set to be available in 50 major cities by the end of this year, while Li Auto’s EVs will be capable of traveling on fixed routes by themselves after training for weeks in 100 cities.
Bring generative AI to vehicles
GWM is also looking to greatly expand its in-car system capabilities through the integration of emerging technologies such as generative AI tools. Its first aim is to use AI to anticipate user preferences and create high-quality infotainment content in some new car models in the fourth quarter of this year.
The company’s newly established AI Lab has been exploring the use of large language models in GWM vehicles. Yang expects significant improvement with the upcoming Coffee OS 3.0, especially in voice recognition and natural language understanding, expecting that the latest operating system will be able to give detailed, relevant responses to users’ queries using AI.
Rival players are all developing ChatGPT-like virtual assistants for use in future car models. Geely is scheduled to launch its RMB 128,000 ($17,600) Galaxy L6 SUV on Saturday with a proprietary AI model that can read children’s picture books. Both GWM and Geely-affiliated Ecarx earlier partnered with Baidu to develop AI assistants based on the latter’s GPT-style large language models.