BYD’s Smart Car Features Include Drones and In-Car Video Games - BLOOMBERG
JANUARY 17, 2024
Bloomberg) -- BYD Co., the world’s largest maker of electric vehicles, will invest 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) to develop smart-car features, its founder and chief executive officer said Tuesday.
Wang Chuanfu didn’t give a specific time frame for the investment or more details. The move comes as the Chinese carmaker tries to narrow the gap with rivals making vehicles with driver-assistance systems and other advanced technology.
BYD plans to introduce what it calls Navigation on Autopilot, which will allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel and feet off pedals in certain scenarios. The system requires drivers to touch the steering wheel every 15 seconds and will come installed in cars that cost more than 300,000 yuan. It also will be available as an upgrade option for vehicles priced at over 200,000 yuan. BYD didn’t say whether drivers will be responsible for crashes if they occur.
Advanced driver-assistance systems are increasingly a major selling point for consumers in China and beyond. Smart cars can be placed on autopilot on some highways and cities, as well as park themselves. Leading players in China including Xpeng Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co. offer ADAS features to set their vehicles apart and command higher prices.
Connected cars and other smart-driving technologies are a major focus of the 15-year plan the Chinese government has outlined for the electrified-vehicle industry. Beijing is encouraging selected cities to set up 200 testing spots for smart cars, reserve parking spots for cars that can park themselves and test 200 driver-less cars, according to a statement published Wednesday.
Xpeng has long been considered among the most advanced Chinese manufacturers when it comes to smart driving, with its navigation-guided pilot system, or XNGP, rolled out to 52 cities nationwide. The system can make cars automatically accelerate, brake, detect traffic lights and change lanes by crunching real-time data through Lidar sensors and cameras.
Xpeng’s models also can come with a memory parking feature, where a car can guide itself through multiple levels in a parking garage to a preselected spot.
BYD’s Navigation on Autopilot feature already comes installed in its Denza N7 EV. It will be added to the automaker’s Yangwang brand luxury models, BYD said, and likely to some of its more mainstream series of cars.
As part of its presentation at the glitzy event in Shenzhen, BYD also went over other non-driving features that it’s looking at adding to enhance drivers’ experiences.
The Yangwang U8, which retails for around 1 million yuan, will be available with a vehicle-mounted drone and its own housing case. Engineers redesigned the steering wheel so it can detach from the control column. Drivers can then use it and the car’s pedals to play video games, such as car racing.
Read more: How China’s BYD Beat Tesla at Its Own Game to Be King of the EVs
In some of its other higher-priced models, BYD is adding palm-print motion sensor technology to enable drivers to open car doors by waving at them.
BYD also gave more details on its overseas push, with a company spokesperson confirming its Denza brand, which is 10% owned by Mercedes-Benz Group AG, will launch in Europe in the fourth quarter. BYD is planning on exporting its Yangwang and Fang Cheng Bao brands, as well.
Yangwang and Fang Cheng Bao also luxury likely get name rebrands to better suit an international market, the spokesperson said. In December, exports accounted for around 11% of BYD’s sales.
BYD also formally unveiled the first of eight cargo ships the company will take delivery of over the next two years to help it export EVs around the world.
(Updates to add government’s smart-car promotion in fifth paragraph.)