China drives the future of the engine
When a western company is highly successful with innovative products, it is common for companies in China to copy their model. It happens in all sectors, and times are getting shorter and shorter. The automotive industry is a good example of this: Tesla has turned the electric car into an object of desire , it is a pioneer in the development and adoption of automated driving systems, and already has in the Asian giant a large catalog of companies looking to emulate your success.
NIO is one of those that seem best positioned to achieve it. He just started his IPO in New York with the intention of achieving 1.800 million dollars and his model ES8 sells more in China than Tesla. "The future lies in intelligent, electric and autonomous vehicles, and our goal is to open the way," the brand affirms on its website.
And it is not a bluff. It already has two models in production - the aforementioned seven-seater SUV and the sporty EP9, the fastest electric car in the world, with a top speed of 313 km / h, and its concept car EVE, autonomous and designed as a room of being has been one of the big stars of the last contest of the automobile of China, the best place to glimpse the course that takes the main world market.
"Some people still believe that electric cars are a fad, and that automation will not materialize, but the statistics and the work that is being done in the R & D departments show the opposite," said NIO president Qin Lihong. , during the inauguration ceremony of the zone that Shanghai opened in March to the experimentation with autonomous vehicles in real conditions .
His company was one of the two Chinese brands that received the first license plates to test their cars without driver in the streets of the economic capital of the country. "This project provides the legal basis for the tests required for the development of this technology and demonstrates the Government's commitment to the revolution that is approaching in the automotive industry," Qin added.
In Qiantu, another Chinese Tesla that astonishes with the sporty K-50, consider that the collaboration between the Government and the companies is, precisely, what is going to give the Asian giant the advantage it needs to succeed in the new era. "The authorities are solving the problem of infrastructure with the installation of thousands of 'electroliers' , and the subsidies have also led to the increase in sales required to reduce manufacturing costs," says Han Yan, one of the responsible for the brand.
The data reveals that the combustion engines still strongly lead sales, but also that electric cars grow well above the market average. According to the Association of Automobile Manufacturers of China (CAAM), in the first half of the year, 14.07 million vehicles were sold in the country. Only 412,000 were clean energies, but their growth represented 111.5%.
And the plans of the Asian giant give wings to the manufacturers. A document published in January by the National Commission for Reform and Development foresees that in 2020 there will be two million clean cars, and that 50% of the vehicles sold that year will be partially or totally autonomous. If their forecasts are met, five years later zero emission vehicles will account for 20% of the car fleet.
"It's not a whim, it's a necessity, it's imperative to reduce pollution levels," says Chen Hailin, director of the Shanghai Intelligent Connected Vehicle Testing Pilot Zone. "Governments must adapt infrastructures with the latest communications technologies (V2X) to facilitate the deployment of autonomous vehicles, because their introduction will be very positive for citizens," he adds.
In the not too distant future, says Hailin, human beings will not go behind the wheel, they can be more productive or relax during their journeys, they will travel without polluting, and with levels of security never reached before. "I am convinced that China can take the lead, because there is political will, it has cutting-edge battery technology - BYD is one of the leading manufacturers of electric vehicles - and it is rapidly advancing in the development of automation systems."
In the area he runs, several engineers are already testing one of the first passenger buses that will have the highest level of automation. At the moment, his Golden Dragon vehicle moves at only five kilometers per hour, but one of those responsible for monitoring their systems advances that they have already tested it without problems at 60 per hour. "We hope to have it operational in Shanghai from 2020," says Li Xiao. At the moment, the Chinese technological giant Baidu has already begun the mass production of its autonomous bus Apolong, which is operating on fixed routes through tourist parks.
Baidu is one of the companies with the strongest commitment to autonomous vehicles. In fact, it has opened its software platform so that any brand can use it and is reaping very good results. But its systems are still far from the reliability offered by its main American competitor, Waymo - by Google's parent company, Alphabet. According to the Chinese company, between October 2016 and November 2017, its autonomous vehicles required the intervention of a human driver every 65.9 kilometers while in the Waymo vehicles only one was required every 9,005 kilometers.
However, Gu Weihao, head of Baidu's autonomous vehicle project, is convinced that the technology gap is shrinking rapidly thanks to collaboration between brands. But not all opt for an open platform. NIO wants to bring the closed model of Apple to autonomous vehicles, creating an ecosystem from which it is difficult to exit.
Their vehicles include a virtual assistant called Nomi, special batteries that can be changed in three minutes, and a mobile app specially designed to communicate with both the vehicle and the company. "The Made in China is getting rid of the negative connotations thanks to the technological evolution", assures its president.