Chinese automotive heavyweight BYD recently committed to running Baidu’s autonomous driving systems in its vehicles, with the partnership expected to boost profitability for both brands.
Sources working closely with the companies told South China Morning Post (SCMP) that Baidu’s natively developed autonomous driving platform, Apollo Navigation Pilot (ANP), had been selected by the Warren Buffett-backed BYD in early March.
China’s largest EV producer has a history of collaboration with Baidu and the new strategic partnership comes as BYD finds itself fighting to maintain its sizable market share in an increasingly competitive market.
BYD’s stellar reputation for batteries and battery management would dovetail well with Baidu’s sophisticated autonomous driving system and accompanying software, said Chen Jinzhu, CEO of Shanghai Mingliang Auto Service.
Chen added that BYD’s outfitted with the latest-generation digital technologies, like the ANP platform, would move the brand up the value chain and increase profitability.
BYD battery and vehicle manufacturer began operation in 1995, initially specialising in battery production. In the early 2000s, motor vehicles started rolling out of the Shenzhen-based firm’s assembly lines.
In the subsequent two decades, aided by the surge in popularity and affordability of EV technologies, BYD has become one of China’s leading EV brands.
In the fourth quarter of 2021, BYD delivered an estimated 266 204 plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles, just 14% short of rival Tesla, which sold an estimated 308 600 in the same period.
Analysts believe the partnership will benefit Baidu greatly too. China’s tech giant and largest internet search engine has been developing ANP driverless technology for five years and is predominantly used in Baidu robotaxis, which are conducting real-world trials in Beijing and Shanghai.
The firm has laid out plans for rapid expansion. In late 2021, CEO Robin Li made it clear that he intends to roll out the robotaxi service to 100 cities by the end of the decade. At present, only one commercial vehicle, WM Motors’ W6 SUV, has ANP functionality.
There is no confirmation about what level of level of autonomy BYD’s EVs will acquire once the partnership with Baidu is finalised. However, it is worth noting that Jidu Automotive, another Baidu-backed player in the EV industry, will be reportedly come standard with L4 autonomous functionality. Jidu Automotive announced it would deliver its first EVs in 2023.
The Society of Automotive Engineering describes L4 autonomy as a level of self-driving where the EV does not require human input to drive, but drivers can still choose to take over controls manually.