Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment-maker and the second-biggest smartphone vendor, has jumped into artificial intelligence with an ambitious self-driving car project.
The Chinese tech giant, which has recently found itself in the crosshairs of the US administration, is working with foreign auto makers to launch a self-driving car in the coming years.
The embattled firm has given insight into the project to Financial Times reporters in its headquarters in Shenzhen.
“From my understanding, we are working together to have a car that will be shipped in the year 2021 or 2022 using these [autonomous driving] components,” the company’s strategy chief, Dang Wenshuan, was quoted as saying. “This will be in China, but not only in China . . . it will also be in Europe.”
Huawei is said to be developing self-driving AI software with Audi, Toyota Motor, and Chinese auto makers Beijing New Energy Automobile and Changan Automobile.
A video seen by FT appeared to show a self-driving vehicle navigating through the streets of Shanghai, recognising traffic lights and avoiding pedestrians without manual controls.
Dang said that the bulk of the value of the upcoming AI-powered vehicle will account for ICT, which means that tech companies such as Huawei will have the upper hand.
Washington Goes After Huawei
Although European manufacturers appear to be eager to work with Huawei on a robot-car future, another forefront of technology, 5G, raises much more concerns in Europe.
The United States has been pushing allies to bar Huawei from their future 5G mobile phone networks, claiming that the company is spying for the Chinese government and may use its equipment to harvest personal and commercial data.
The United States has banned Huawei components from its government systems and recently prohibited it to buy parts and components from American companies without government approval.
Meanwhile, a robot-car future is just around the corner; on Tuesday, US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said that 1,400 self-driving vehicles – including cars and trucks – are being tested by over 80 companies in the United States alone.
They include Alphabet subsidiary Waymo, which is testing autonomous taxis, and Tesla, whose founder Elon Musk plans to launch self-driving robo-taxis as early as 2020.
Although there are some self-driving models on the market, including those offered by Tesla, fully automated driving may be further than we expect.
EU commissioner for transport, Violeta Bulc, expects the new generation of fully automated vehicles to come only by 2030.
Furthermore, some experts doubt that autonomous cars will immediately force their less advanced competitors out of the market.
Uber’s chief scientist Raquel Urtasin, for instance, was cautious with his prognoses when he spoke about the cars at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York in April.
“Self-driving cars are going to be in our lives. The question of when is not clear yet,” Urtasun said. “To have it at scale is going to take a long time.”