China’s Smart Car Sector Now Ahead of Europe and US, Haomo Chairman Says

China’s intelligent vehicle market is significantly ahead of Europe and the United States, said Zhang Kai, the chairman of Beijing-based autonomous driving company Haomo.AI Technology Co., Ltd., at the company’s sixth AI Day event held on September 13.

China has accounted for 57% of all smart vehicles of different levels of automation sold so far across the world, followed by Europe at 27% and the United States at 10%, he told the audience, citing data from a research firm. In addition, the penetration rate of intelligent vehicles has reached 26% in China.

“The Chinese market has become a key battlefield for global intelligent vehicle manufacturers,” Zhang said, adding that “passenger vehicles pre-installed with an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) will account for 70% of all vehicles sold in China by 2025, up from 26.64% over the first six months of this year.”

Haomo itself, which counts semiconductor heavyweight Qualcomm and Chinese food delivery giant Meituan among its investors, has played a crucial role in Great Wall Motor maintaining an upper hand in the “intelligentization” of the automobile industry worldwide.

HPilot, Haomo’s in-house developed ADAS, which has reached L2 autonomy, has been installed in seven models of the Hebei-based automaker, with Wey Latte DHT-PHEV as the latest example. The Chinese automaker sold 88,226 vehicles worldwide, up 18.81% year-on-year, including 15,374 units overseas, registering 23.99% year-on-year growth, according to the company’s website.

The path to full automation

Haomo CEO Gu Weihao delivers a speech on autonomous driving September 13, 2022. (Photo provided to Pandaily)

Over the years, there has been some disagreement on how far mass vehicle automation can go, with some believing in the approach of first achieving lower levels of autonomy and gradually moving up, such as Tesla and Haomo.

“Autonomous driving has entered the third era, from the hardware-driven era to the software-driven era and to the current data-driven era,” said Gu Weihao, CEO of Haomo.

“We believe that assisted driving is the only way to realize full automation,” said Gu, explaining that the human driving experience with supporting features can generate plenty of real and diverse data, which is necessary to train and update the autonomous driving system.

Autonomous driving mileage for one company can easily surge to more than 100 million kilometers – up from 10 million kilometers in the software-driven era and 1 million kilometers in the hardware-driven era.

Haomo’s ADAS product, HPilot, which has undergone two iterations, has aided drivers of tens of thousands of vehicles to cover more than 17 million kilometers in China, with functions such as automatic lane changing and parking.

Founded in November 2019, Haomo started to mass produce the HPilot 1.0 version in May 2021 and the 2.0 version in April 2022. According to Haomo’s Zhang, mass production of the HPilot 3.0 version, which features assisted driving on both urban roads and highways, will come before the end of this year.

Haomo is also willing to cooperate with other global automakers under a “6P” principle, which stands for six autonomous driving products, namely the codes, modules, software, hardware, cloud, and the entire solution, the Haomo chairman added.

Zhang Yaqin, dean of the Institute for AI Industry Research (AIR) at Tsinghua University, said on the AI Day event that autonomous driving will be the most challenging and complicated task in the AI sector, and it will also be a key technological force to drive the revolution of the global automobile industry.

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“Autonomous driving is achievable, but challenges for self-driving on open roads lie in technology accountability and social acceptance,” the AIR dean said.

“The system can be launched faster into specific vertical sectors and later expanded to more general areas,” added the AI professor, who once served as a vice-president of Baidu, a Chinese tech giant with operations in the autonomous driving field, without elaborating further.

In addition to ADAS for passenger vehicles, Haomo has also commercialized its autonomous driving technologies in the logistics sector, a specific vertical sector, under a “5S” principle, which means “factory as a service,” “infrastructure as a service,” “platform as a service,” “vehicle as a service,” and “mobility as a service.”

Haomo produces and sells L4 autonomous driving vans to Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and Meituan, and it uses its own vans to deliver parcels to grocery buyers of DMall, an on-demand service provider under Wumart.

To date, Haomo’s L4 autonomous driving vans, named Xiaomotuo or HDeliver, have delivered 90,000 parcels from a Wumart supermarket in Beijing’s Shunyi District.