Xpeng Kicks Off ‘Longest Autonomous Driving Challenge’ in China

Chinese electric vehicle (EV) startup Xpeng Motors has kicked off a week-long autonomous driving challenge that will span more than 3,600 kilometers across six Chinese provinces, putting its autonomous capabilities to the ultimate test.

The fleet is comprised of four P7 vehicles equipped with Xpeng’s Navigation Guided Pilot, or NGP, a full-stack in-house developed autonomous driving solution. The fleet started off on March 19 in Guangzhou — where Xpeng is headquartered — and will arrive in Beijing on Friday. If completed, the company said the test will be the longest autonomous driving expedition for mass-produced cars in China.

Photos and videos released by Xpeng show the fleet, headed by a red P7, cruising smoothly on highway sections near Quanzhou city, Fujian’s largest metropolitan region on the second day of the expedition, which will cover a total of 10 cities.

The Xpeng P7 Premium version, equipped with its XPILOT 3.0 advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) that supports the NGP function, carries members of the media and third parties. Pandaily has been invited to take part in the challenge and will start its journey from Shanghai on Friday.

The total distance of 3,675 km covers 3,145 km of highways, where the key functionalities and reliability of the NGP, including highway ramp entering and exiting, switching of highways and lanes, overtaking and speed limit adjustment will be fully tested, the company said in a press release.

The frequency of human driver intervention as well as the success rate for the functions above will determine whether the challenge is a success, Xpeng added.

The cars have so far driven nearly 280 km on average every day, the company said in an update on Twitter. Human driver intervention per 100 km took place 0.85 times, while the lane changing and overtaking success rate was 86.05% and highway ramp entering and exiting success rate stood at 85%.

In a letter addressed to company employees, founder and chairman He Xiaopeng said he wished to challenge his team with the expedition.

“With more difficult tasks, team members will be able to fully collaborate and improve faster. At the same time, this is the first such ‘expedition’ of autonomous driving in the industry,” he added.

The route from Guangzhou to Beijing will cover the Yangtze River Delta region, and road conditions match what Xpeng customers face on a daily basis, He said, adding that “the success of the challenge will enhance users’ confidence in our NGP system.”

The company launched NGP’s public beta version in late January. Cumulative user mileage exceeded 500,000 km in 14 days and exceeded one million kilometers in 25 days.

“What surprised me the most was that the penetration rate of NGP in February reached nearly 60%. This means users found our NGP function highly useful,” He said in his note. “This is the biggest milestone that Xpeng Motors has achieved since its founding in 2015, strengthening our confidence to continue investing in the field of smart transportation.”

The seven-day challenge from Guangzhou to Beijing will cover the Yangtze River Delta region. (Source: Xpeng)

“However, we still have a long way to go to become the world’s No. 1. We, as a team, need to persevere and prove ourselves through actual data,” he added. “The increasingly fierce competition for autonomous driving technology is driving the era of smart car revolution. As the most determined explorers on this track, we must firmly ramp up our efforts in technology and talent in order to get ahead of the game.”

As a key challenger to US EV maker Tesla, Xpeng has continued to raise funds to fuel its growth in China, securing 500 million yuan ($77 million) from the Guangdong provincial government just last week as well as a credit line of 12.8 billion yuan from state-owned banks in January.

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Last year, New York-listed Xpeng saw its annual deliveries surge to 27,041 units, representing an increase of 112.5%, according to the company’s latest financial results. Total revenue for the completed year reached 5,844 million yuan, a 151.8% jump from the year before.

Xpeng is planning to build a third car plant in China and will have a lineup of seven to eight models by 2024, he added. Right now, the company makes the P7 sedan — a rival to the made-in-China Tesla Model 3 — and the G3 sport-utility vehicle.