Baidu Veteran Joins Nvidia’s Automotive Business Unit

The overall software architecture and regulation of the vehicle-side intelligent driving L2+ business at Baidu, Inc., led by Luo Qi, responsible for vehicle interaction technology, has recently joined the automotive division of NVIDIA as an engineering director. He is in charge of forecasting, planning, and control, reporting to Wu Xinzhou, head of NVIDIA’s automotive department.

Luo Qi joined Baidu in 2016 and worked at Baidu‘s US research institute. In 2022, he was promoted to Senior Chief Software Architect. Before leaving Baidu, he was responsible for the overall software architecture of the vehicle end of L2+, which is the ANP (Apollo Navigation Pilot) business of Baidu‘s Intelligent Driving Group (IDG), including modules such as prediction, planning, control, behavior data recording and annotation, simulation evaluation etc., reporting to Wang Liang, Chief R&D Architect of IDG. His job level before leaving was T9 (Architect level).

Baidu ANP aims at the front-loading mass production L2+ level assisted driving solution, which has been applied in models such as ROBO-01 and Voyah. Before joining Baidu, Luo Qi worked at automation giant Rockwell and American engine company EcoMotors.

According to GGII, since August last year, XPeng Motors’ former Vice President of Autonomous Driving, Wu Xinzhou, joined NVIDIA. Dozens of people including Patrick from the original XPeng Motors autonomous driving AI team, Parixit Aghera from the original XPeng Motors North American team’s Engineering VP, Han Feng from the multimodal perception fusion algorithm directorate, and Houman Tavakoli from the software architecture directorate have joined or are about to join NVIDIA’s intelligent driving team. These new talents mainly come from Wu Xinzhou’s former subordinates at XPeng and other domestic smart driving suppliers with mass production experience.

The NVIDIA autonomous driving team is currently distributed in both China and the United States. The autonomous driving research and development team led by Wu Xinzhou in China already has over a hundred engineers.

Unlike the strong position of the autonomous driving chip in the industry, NVIDIA’s autonomous driving software solution has faced challenges in development. NVIDIA began exploring autonomous driving solutions in 2015 and reached cooperation intentions with several overseas automotive clients such as Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar Land Rover. However, they have been unable to deliver a complete solution on time, leading Mercedes-Benz to request the introduction of other suppliers at one point.

Wu Xinzhou joined NVIDIA last year as the head of NVIDIA’s automotive business unit and vice president of automotive, signaling the acceleration of NVIDIA’s autonomous driving business.

Wu Xinzhao’s urgent and important task is to serve the large clients that NVIDIA has already signed. Currently, NVIDIA’s main customers in the smart driving business are still foreign car companies. It is understood that Mercedes-Benz is currently NVIDIA’s highest priority project, and NVIDIA has invested a lot of resources with the hope of delivering it on time by mid-year.

Wu Xinzhao is the right candidate to lead NVIDIA’s autonomous driving business. He previously served as the Director of Engineering at Qualcomm, with experience in technical management at large American companies. His experience at XPeng also gives him experience in leading teams to develop and deliver automotive intelligence solutions.

A self-driving industry practitioner commented that Wu Xinzhou has both the ability to manage technical teams and communicate effectively with superiors and subordinates, as well as a good sense of technology. When faced with a pile of technical options, Wu Xinzhou is highly likely to choose the correct answer.

A senior practitioner who is not optimistic about the joint development of intelligent driving solutions by teams in China and the United States said: In the past, there have been no particularly successful cases of foreign-funded automotive research and development departments or multinational R&D programs established in China. However, he also believes that Wu Xinzhou may be a variable.

Although automobiles are listed as one of NVIDIA’s three major businesses (data center, gaming, automotive), their revenue share is far behind the other two businesses. NVIDIA’s fourth quarter financial report for 2023 shows that automotive business revenue was $281 million, an increase of 8% compared to the previous quarter but a decrease of 10% year-on-year, accounting for only 1.2% of total revenue.

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However, NVIDIA’s founder Jensen Huang is very optimistic about the prospects of the automotive business. At the 2022 GTC conference, Jensen Huang stated that in the future, NVIDIA’s revenue will reach $1 trillion, with the automotive business accounting for 30%.

Intelligent driving also has technological continuity with robots. Robots are a long-term direction that Jensen Huang is very optimistic about. In his speech in the middle of last year, he proposed Embodied AI (which can be simply understood as embedding intelligent capabilities in hardware devices such as robots), which will lead the next wave of artificial intelligence.

NVIDIA has a precedent of making huge returns by investing ahead of time: NVIDIA’s AI computing chip (GPU) now dominates the world, thanks to its parallel computing software platform CUDA developed 20 years ago in 2004. This helped NVIDIA build a strong ecosystem for GPUs and was key to forming market dominance.

In the past 12 months, due to the strong growth of its AI chip business, Nvidia’s stock price has more than tripled, with a total market value reaching 2 trillion US dollars, ranking fourth globally, behind only Apple, Microsoft and Saudi Aramco.