Geely Auto Chairman: artificial intelligence and automatic driving to change the automobile industry

Li Shufu, Chairman of leading Chinese electric car maker Geely, has published a letter addressing electric car manufacture, and the overall strategy and vision of how artificial intelligence and automatic driving will reshape the industry, the 21st Century Business Herald reported on Sunday.

Geely
Screenshot from Geely.com

Li said his company will develop smart connected cars and new energy cars and will take on greater corporate responsibility.

In general, trendy electric car maker Tesla and founder Elon Musk always draw heated discussions in China. Not quite yet Musk’s Chinese peer, Li, led Geely to buy Volvo from Ford in 2010, and has expressed his ambition to develop electric vehicles. Geely Auto, the Hangzhou-based automobile manufacturer with a history of nearly 30 years, has risen to be a major player in the Chinese market for electric cars after establishing a joint venture with Kandi.

Below are highlights from Li’s public letter.

Pacing into the era of intelligence, the automobile industry is now in the latest phase of automobile integration with the Internet. At the same time, the development of the auto industry in China is at an essential turning point- the Chinese government has made developing energy-efficient and new energy vehicles a major strategy, which will eventually trigger a series of reformations in the auto industry.

Speaking of smart connected cars, I think there are three main technologies: car connectivity (the technology to connect automobiles to the Internet), artificial intelligence and automatic driving. All three technologies are integrating in one direction: automatic driving. Car connectivity is absolutely not limited to the connection of vehicles and smart devices, it is more about connections within cars, and also between cars and infrastructure. Smart connected cars are not simply about embedding the function of smartphones in cars.

Auto manufacturers are making automatic cars, while tech companies are making driverless cars. We are using the same technology to do things that are slightly different. What’s the difference then? I think we differ in concept. Automatic cars give humans the freedom to choose to drive or let the car self-drive, while driverless cars leave no such option.

Based on my understanding of connectivity and the needs of consumers, I think smart connected cars will have to embrace five essential elements. First, drivers will have the option of driving independently. It has to be the vehicle that adapts to the needs of drivers and not vice versa, and driving has to be an enjoyable experience for drivers. Second, and also most importantly is vehicle safety. Volvo is second to none when it comes to understanding auto safety. Third, human machine interfaces need to be increasingly user-friendly and simple. Forth, vehicles are to connect with drivers, vehicles, mobile devices and infrastructure through cloud services and big data. And the last element is automatic driving.

The Volvo in-car control interface, Sensus, has been awarded the title ‘Most Innovative HMI System’ at the 2015 Car HMI Concept & Systems conference. The yearly conference held in Berlin is equivalent to the Oscars in car connectivity. And Volvo is also doing well in artificial intelligence. The Volvo XC 90 is able to compete with the NASA space shuttle in terms of the amount of sensors and micro-computers onboard. In developing automatic cars, Volvo is a leader globally, having setting up the world’s first automatic driving research team ten years ago. Now Volvo has stepped up from the experimental phase to mass production.

Besides smart connected cars, another trend will be new energy cars, with the Chinese government making environmental protection a very important target in its development strategy.

Following the path of the green future, Geely introduced the “Blue Geely” Initiative, a commitment to “meet and exceed” government mandated average fuel consumption levels that will hit 5.0 litres per 100km by 2020. This will enable consumers to afford plug-in hybrid vehicles by pricing them competitively with traditional vehicles, and will make sales of new energy vehicles account for 90% of total Geely sales by 2020.

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