BYD plans $14 bn investment in smarter car features

BYD plans $14 bn investment in smarter car features

Automotive News Europe — 2024-01-17

Automotive Industry

BYD, the world’s largest maker of electric vehicles, will invest 100 bn yuan ($14 billion) to develop smart-car features, its founder and CEO, Wang Chuanfu, said.

Chuanfu did not give a specific time frame for the investment or more details. The move comes as the Chinese automaker tries to narrow the gap with rivals making vehicles with driver-assistance systems and other advanced technology.

BYD plans to introduce what it calls Navigation on Autopilot, which will allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel and feet off the pedals in certain scenarios.

The system requires drivers to touch the steering wheel every 15 seconds and will come installed in cars costing more than 300,000 yuan. It also will be available as an upgrade option for vehicles priced at more than 200,000 yuan. BYD did not say whether drivers will be responsible for crashes if they occur.

Advanced driver-assistance systems are increasingly a major selling point for consumers in China and beyond. Smart cars can be placed on autopilot on some highways and cities, as well as park themselves.

Leading players in China including Xpeng and Huawei Technologies offer ADAS features to set their vehicles apart and command higher prices.

Connected cars and other smart-driving technologies are a major focus of the 15-year plan the Chinese government has outlined for the electrified-vehicle industry. Beijing is encouraging selected cities to set up 200 testing spots for smart cars, reserve parking spots for cars that can park themselves and test 200 driver-less cars, according to a statement published Wednesday.

Xpeng has long been considered among the most advanced Chinese manufacturers when it comes to smart driving, with its navigation-guided pilot system, or XNGP, rolled out to 52 cities nationwide. The system can make cars automatically accelerate, brake, detect traffic lights and change lanes by crunching real-time data through Lidar sensors and cameras.

Xpeng’s models also can come with a memory parking feature, where a car can guide itself through multiple levels in a parking garage to a preselected spot.

BYD’s Navigation on Autopilot feature already comes installed in its Denza N7 EV. It will be added to the automaker’s Yangwang brand luxury models, BYD said, and likely to some of its more mainstream series of cars.

As part of its presentation at the glitzy event in Shenzhen, BYD also went over other non-driving features that it’s considering adding to enhance drivers’ experiences.

The Yangwang U8, which retails for around 1 m yuan, will be available with a vehicle-mounted drone and its own housing case. Engineers redesigned the steering wheel so it can detach from the control column. Drivers can then use it and the car’s pedals to play video games, such as car racing.

In some of its other higher-priced models, BYD is adding palm-print motion sensor technology to enable drivers to open car doors by waving at them.

BYD also gave more details on its overseas push, with a company spokesperson confirming its Denza brand, which is 10% owned by Mercedes-Benz Group, will launch in Europe in the fourth quarter. BYD is planning on exporting its Yangwang and Fang Cheng Bao brands, as well.