Chinese automaker Geely on Oct. 27 unveiled its biggest bet ever on intelligent vehicles with the launch of the first Jiyue-branded model, which the company says is capable of driving itself on busy urban streets in partnership with search engine Baidu.
The automaker stated its vehicle relies heavily on a camera-based approach to capture detailed visual information and then respond appropriately, removing expensive laser sensors from its hardware suite to keep costs down. Tesla is reportedly a rare advocate for using the so-called vision-only approach, while most other brands opt for multiple sensors to mitigate safety concerns of their self-driving technologies.
“I believe we provide users a better self-driving experience [than existing players] in most major Chinese cities,” Luo Gang, Jiyue’s chief operating officer, told reporters during an interview, adding that the Jiyue 01 outperforms Tesla’s offerings in digital services such as its AI assistant (our translation). Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) function is currently unavailable in China.
The Jiyue 01, a battery sports utility vehicle, comes in two versions with a price range between RMB 249,900 and RMB 339,900 ($34,148-$46,446), slightly lower than its pre-sale price and differing based on acceleration, driving range, and number of electric motors, among other specifications. Customers are also encouraged to pay RMB 19,900, a 60% cut from its sticker price, for all the premium functions of its self-driving software.
Here are some of the news and highlights from the launch event held in Shanghai by Jiyue, formerly known as Jidu before Geely and Baidu set up a new venture in August.
Self-driving tech: Jiyue said its advanced driver-assistance system, the Robo Drive Max, is already available to drivers in Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Shenzhen, meaning the cars can navigate complex urban streets in the three big cities with autonomous features such as overtaking, lane changing, and on-ramp/off-ramp driving. The firm is targeting nationwide availability for the software by 2024, which would mean it matched rival Xpeng.
- Chief executive Joe Xia claimed the car could drive itself from point to point without many user interventions by using less costly high-definition maps and training multiple neural networks such as occupancy networks in big data sets, rather than relying on lidar. Rival Xpeng is also removing two radar sensors for its upcoming MPV model but retaining lidar technology for enhanced safety, TechNode has reported.
- The five-seater Jiyue 01 is equipped with 11 cameras and 17 ultrasonic sensors and radars. The company believes it is building public confidence in autonomous car safety, as Baidu has tested its autonomous car fleets without accidents for more than 70 million kilometers (43.5 million miles). Baidu has been handling various corner cases over the past decade, which greatly improves the safety of the system, said Luo.
Smart cabin: The Jiyue 01 also boasts the most advanced voice recognition software on the market for in-car services, which can respond intelligently in milliseconds without losing its connection, as the company deploys artificial intelligence models and moves data analytics from cloud computers to the vehicle. The system is also set to evolve and become more alert to the needs of its owners, powered by Baidu’s ChatGPT-like chatbot, Ernie Bot.
- Notably, the automaker is bringing voice activation outside the car, saying it is the world’s first model that allows autonomous valet parking via just a spoken command without the driver sitting in the car, from as far as two kilometers away, according to an announcement. A company employee demonstrated the feature with several reporters joined by TechNode in an indoor parking lot on the sidelines of the event.
- Xia added that the vehicle’s in-car system is powered by Qualcomm’s most advanced smart cockpit computing platform, the SA8295, which provides a processing power of over 60 trillion operations per second (TOPS), compatible with that of flagship smartphones available on the market. This would allow users to play the hit racing game Asphalt with a 35.6-inch display across the dashboard, as would NIO owners do with their handsets and a smaller screen.
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