Chinese automakers could overtake Tesla with Intel’s help
Until now, Tesla has kept a good head start among its competitors with Autopilot and FSD (Full Self-Driving), which allow the brand’s electric cars to offer quality autonomous driving. But the Asian offensive has just begun and is starting in Europe thanks to a partnership between the American giant Intel and two well-known Chinese manufacturers through its subsidiary Mobileye.
In Europe, Tesla’s electric cars can use Autopilot, a software suite that allows the car to drive autonomously in certain situations, including on the highway. In the United States, the American brand goes even further, with FSD (Full Self-Driving), completely driving the car, even in the city center. The technology is still in beta, but the videos captured in the Atlantic Ocean are truly impressive.
Elon Musk promised that FSD should come to Europe. But Tesla and promises are a long love story. Often you have to be patient, even very, very patient. This allows competitors to try to take the first step of an autonomous car in Europe without Tesla. This is already the case in the German Mercedes with the level 3 autonomous driving of the EQS and S-Class. However, compared to Tesla’s FSD, there are many restrictions and limitations.
But the threat may come from further afield: from China. Indeed, a car with 1,000 km of autonomy, Chinese giant Geely’s Zeekr 001, is starting a beta program for autonomous driving similar to Tesla’s FSD for 70,000 drivers in China this month. The system, called NZP, allows the car to drive fully autonomously on expressways, as seen in the video below or a longer video posted on the Chinese manufacturer’s Weibo account.
Zeekr 001 then self-selects to overtake, downhill or even change lanes to follow its route thanks to the Mobileye SuperVision system. This system will also be available on the upcoming Zeekr 009, a luxury electric family van.
To achieve this, the cars are equipped with two Mobileye EyeQ5H chips, seven 8-megapixel cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors (which Tesla recently decided to remove from their cars) and radar. The system works up to 130 km/h.
A true rival to Tesla’s FSD?
However, we’re still a long way from Tesla’s FSD, which handles more complex situations on busier city streets and isn’t easy for a computer to understand. But the Chinese company Zeekr does not intend to stop there. Indeed, the system is based on the technology of Mobileye, a subsidiary of the American giant Intel.
As with the Tesla, autonomous driving is accomplished using an array of radars and cameras (but not LiDAR). So it’s possible to change things thanks to over-the-air software updates (OTA), just like Tesla was able to do by switching from Autopilot to FSD.
And to be precise, in the 2023 edition, Mobileye announced a fully autonomous driving test in real conditions in Germany using the possibilities of CES. The aim is to offer a robotaxi service (which reminds us of Tesla’s robotaxi) to replace or improve the public transport offer. To do this, Mobileye uses Chinese manufacturer Nio’s first car to land in Europe: the Nio ES8. Not the new version, no, the old version.
Be warned, Mobileye isn’t just using cameras for this pilot project. The Nio ES8 has been heavily modified as Mobileye integrates additional sensors on the roof, including the popular LiDAR. The American company notes in its press release that this is necessary for the redundancy of the system to ensure that autonomous driving is carried out in full safety. In addition, the employee will always be behind the wheel, ready to take over the driver if necessary.
When will it be the same with the Europeans?
European automakers are also interested in Mobileye’s self-driving technology, as the American company says the car will be equipped with it by 2025. But without naming names. It should also be noted that CES 2023 was an opportunity for Mobileye to announce a 4D radar to replace the expensive and useless LiDAR.
Ultimately, Mobileye’s solution still has a long way to go to reach Tesla’s level of FSD. But the threat is real, as Chinese manufacturers enter the electric car market (and may overdo it in the long run). Remember that Mobileye is a subsidiary of Intel, which means very high financial possibilities.
And that’s without relying on rising Chinese star Xpeng, who is actively working on autonomous driving with an impressive demonstration last summer. Its P5 and P7 electric cars are already available in Europe, Norway. And let’s not forget that Zeekr has partnered with Waymo (Google) for a robot taxi, the Zeekr M.
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