(Yicai Global) Nov. 30 -- Changan Automobile Group, one of China's big four car manufacturers, plans to speed up development of self-driving technology by spending 5 percent of its revenue on research in the field, according to its president.
The Chongqing-based firm has over a hundred smart driving technologies and uses more than 70 already, Zhu Huarong said in an interview with Yicai Global. Some 15 of them were domestic firsts, he added.
His firm became the first Chinese carmaker to begin mass producing level two autonomous cars -- ones which offer partial driving assistance, such as automatic emergency braking and lane keeping -- in April this year. It plans to start mass producing level three vehicles in 2020 and level four cars in 2025.
In level three cars, the vehicle can control itself under a limited range of conditions, while level four self-drivers are mostly autonomous -- they can complete entire journeys without human assistance but may be restricted to operating in certain geographical areas or up to certain speeds.
Changan develops its autonomous driving technology independently, whereas some other Chinese automakers outsource their algorithm designing, which can be expensive, an R&D engineer at Changan told Yicai Global. The firm successfully tested its self-driving technology at a track on Nov. 28, simultaneously running 55 cars that alternated positions on straights and curves over a 3.2 kilometer stretch.
"Carmakers conduct independent R&D of algorithms to gain a better stance in the market, which is worthy of encouragement" said Wu Zhao, executive director at consulting firm Roland Berger, which has been monitoring the industry for some time.
Research into self-driving still has a long way to go and its future remains uncertain, he added, saying that there are no short-term benefits to investing in the technology, and it is a long-term play.
Editor: James Boynton