In the midst of a global semiconductor shortage, SAIC Motors says it will source the chips crucial to its self-driving cars from local chip maker, Horizon Robotics.
China’s largest automaker made the move to support the relative newcomer to the industry as Beijing scrambles to boost its access to chip supply.
SAIC, the manufacturing partner of Volkswagen, will use Horizon Robotics chips for its future models and SAIC models with driver-assisted functions.
IM, the firm’s premium electric
vehicle (EV) brand showcased in Shanghai earlier this year, will use Horizon’s
Journey 2 platform, according to a joint statement from the two firms.
Horizon Robotics was founded in 2015 by Kai Yu, the former Baidu Institute of Deep Learning head.
While working at Baidu, Yu co-developed its self-driving platform, Apollo.
Horizon Robotics raised $900 million in a round of funding led by SK Group in February 2019.
The chip unicorn will be
responsible for developing chips, algorithms, a solution package for SAIC’s
advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and a smart cockpit.
Demand for the chips crucial to powering laptops, cellphones, televisions, gaming consoles, and tablets increased significantly in 2020 as more people spent more time at home due to Covid-19.
The chip shortage coincided with
a 2021 upswing in automotive sales and has subsequently left many car makers
unable to manufacture certain vehicles.
Porsche CEO Oliver Blume described the global chip shortage as “serious” and believes it will affect car production for some time.
The global shortage, coupled with sanctions imposed by the West, has forced China to ramp up its semiconductor industry. According to tech-focused digital publication, Technode, China produced 6% of all the chips iit used last year and Beijing plans to increase that figure to 75% by 2025.
Chinese chipmakers like Horizon Robotics have received state support to achieve the semiconductor independence sought by Beijing.
The municipal government of
Shanghai announced it would partner with the start-up to build a research and
development centre to accelerate chip production and adoption.
Horizon Robotics vice-president Zhang Yufeng, told the Chinese news outlet, CCTV, that his firm is the only Chinese chipmaker that has built computing systems ready for mass-production.
The firm has shipped 160 000
Journey 2 chips which, according to Horizon officials, is more powerful than
Nvidia offerings. The chips will find a home in the processors of SAIC, Chery,
and Changan models.
The Journey 5 chip, meanwhile, is in development and is expected to have a computing power of 96 trillion operations per second (TOPs), 24 TOPs more than Tesla’s FSD computer.