During the BYD 2022 annual report communication meeting, Chairman Wang Chuanfu shared his perspective on autonomous driving in a clear and honest manner. He dismissed unmanned driving as impractical and misleading, emphasizing that advanced assisted driving is the way forward for future development.
“At the beginning, capital was the driving force behind autonomous driving technology, and as a result, its shortcomings were not pointed out. Some manufacturers made bold claims about achieving certain levels of autonomy in specific years. However, now that those deadlines have arrived, they are unable to keep up with their false promises. Consequently, their market value has dropped and they have gradually returned to rationality. At BYD, tens of thousands of engineers are exploring whether this technology is viable or not. All the strategies adopted by BYD in this regard are correct,” said Wang.
Wang’s belief is that investing a large sum of money in developing autonomous driving technology may not be the best approach. Instead, he suggests focusing on enhancing the level of automation in production lines. This strategy can help to reduce costs and prevent potential issues related to laws, regulations, and ethical considerations.
During the press conference, Wang presented some statistics. Globally, car accidents claim 1.1 million lives annually, while in Shenzhen alone, 24 people die each month due to such incidents. BYD holds a significant market share of 24% in Shenzhen; however, no complaints have been received regarding their products’ steering and braking systems as they comply with regulations. The use of autonomous driving technology raises concerns about determining liability for accidents – a topic that has long been debated within the field of unmanned driving.
Wang’s belief is that autonomous driving is essentially an advanced version of assisted driving. This can be simplified as Nvidia chips and algorithms being equal to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). To illustrate this point, Wang used a metaphor: the assisted driving system acts like “God”, watching over drivers and reminding them when they become distracted or drowsy in order to reduce accidents. However, it must always be the person who is actually in control of the vehicle.
Regarding the discussion of whether “autonomous driving is a hoax” or not, William Li, founder and chairman of NIO, stated that the goal of developing autonomous driving should be to “free up time and reduce accidents”. “NIO is still very confident in achieving automatic assisted driving through the development of its second-generation platform under certain scenarios and weather conditions.”
BYD has emerged as the most significant player in China’s new energy vehicle industry over the past year. In 2022, its operating income surged by 96.2% to reach 424.061 billion yuan ($61 billion), while net profit increased by a staggering 445.86% to 16.622 billion yuan and total sales volume rose by 149.88% to touch 1.8025 million vehicles.
BYD aims to become China’s largest automaker by the end of this year, with a sales target starting at three million units and striving for 3.6 million units, according to Wang. An insider from BYD revealed that out of these targets, domestically they plan on selling around 2.8 million vehicles while exporting approximately 800,000 vehicles overseas, Yicai’s reports showed.