(Yicai Global) June 14 -- Zhejiang Lingpao Technology, better known as Leapmotor, aims to use self-developed graphics processing units as soon as possible in a bid to pave its own way in the autonomous driving sector.
Leapmotor has a firm handle on the key hardware platforms and algorithms needed for self-driving vehicles, the startup’s Chairman Zhu Jiangming told Yicai Global at CES Asia yesterday. It is currently using chips developed in collaboration with Texas Instruments and Nvidia.
With support from its parent, China’s leading Internet of Things firm Zhejiang Dahua Technology, Leapmotor is developing artificial intelligence chips and millimeter and ultrasonic wave radars, Zhu added.
Chinese connected vehicle makers tend to move slower than their American counterparts, with the likes of Google and Tesla pushing the boundaries of autonomous driving. China’s manufacturers tend to focus around Level 2 autonomy, where drivers do most of the work and the vehicle primarily offers assistance.
“When solid state laser technology is more mature and costs come down quickly, the combination of laser radars and visual solutions will allow the creation of more products,” Zhu said.
Choosing a Model
The majority of China’s internet-based carmakers tend to operate by teaming up with contract manufacturers. Leapmotor is currently planning do the same, once it has picked a factory, but is considering setting up its own plant if regulators allow, according to Zhu.
Rival carmaker Singulato also sees production as a challenge, and is hoping to start making cars itself as soon as it gets the appropriate license, Chief Executive Shen Haiyin told Yicai Global. The company has already bought a plot of land in eastern China’s Anhui province in preparation for construction.
Need for Innovation
It has been 130 years since the car was invented, but the development of traditional carmakers is slow, Zhu said, comparing it to the fast-moving information technology and communications industries.
“The automotive industry needs a new force that brings creative spirit, makes driving easier and makes rides more comfortable,” he added. “Emerging companies need to change the current situation, and the only way forward is innovation.”
Zhu plans for Leapmotor to focus on quickly building a complete supply chain before it starts making money, but estimates that the company could break even within three to five years.
The firm unveiled China’s first artificial intelligence chip, Lingxin01, at the event. It uses deep learning and computes around five times faster than mainstream chips.
Leapmotor’s first production vehicle, the LP-S01, is already at Level 2.5 and a software upgrade before 2020 will nudge it up to Level 3. SAE International, formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers, defines Level 3 vehicles as those which can monitor their environment and drive themselves, but may need a human driver to take the wheel at certain times.
Editor: James Boynton