Autonomous driving melee: commercial roadblocks are long, and acquisitions go ahead

  Sino-Singapore Jingwei Client, June 28 (Fu Yumei) Recently, a number of developments in the field of autonomous driving at home and abroad have attracted market attention. On June 27, Didi Chuxing opened its first autonomous driving service to the public, and China is one step closer to driverless commercial use. On the 28th, according to foreign media reports, Amazon announced that it will acquire the autonomous driving company Zoox for $1.2 billion, known as "the largest autonomous driving acquisition this year."

  There is no shortage of giants in the field of autonomous driving. In this scuffle involving many players such as technology travel companies and traditional car companies, breakouts and shuffles are constantly being staged.

  Photo of the new Jingwei Fu Yumei in the picture

Self-driving commercial propulsion

  On June 27, the scaled manned demonstration application of Shanghai Intelligent Connected Automobile was launched, and Didi Chuxing opened its first autonomous driving service to the public. Users can register online through the Didi APP, and after passing the review, they will be able to call a self-driving vehicle for a trial ride experience for free on the autonomous driving test section in Shanghai.

  Data picture source: Didi

  This is not the industry's first. In April this year, Baidu's Apollo driverless taxi announced that it will be officially launched in Changsha. In the open road intelligent driving demonstration area, citizens can use Baidu map and Baidu APP to make a one-click car rental.

  Cheng Wei, founder and CEO of Didi Chuxing, revealed that autonomous driving has matured from technology, commercial maturity to mature regulations, and the obstacles are long. Didi still needs at least 10 years of continuous investment.

  The commercial exploration of autonomous driving has been promoted frequently in 2019 with the city as the landing point. At the 2019 World Intelligent Connected Car Conference, Shanghai issued the first batch of intelligent connected car demonstration application licenses. Didi is one of the first companies to obtain licenses, and the remaining two are SAIC and BMW.

  In the future, enterprises that have obtained demonstration application licenses can first conduct demonstration applications on urban roads and explore the commercial operation of intelligent connected vehicles.

  On September 22, 2019, the National Intelligent Connected Vehicle (Wuhan) Test Demonstration Zone was officially unveiled, and Baidu, Hailiang Technology, and Shenlan Technology obtained the world's first commercial license for autonomous driving.

  Similarly, this means that unmanned vehicles can not only be used for manned testing on open roads, but also for commercial operation exploration.

  The agency pointed out that the "golden decade" of the development of autonomous driving is coming. The “Energy Saving and New Energy Vehicle Technology Roadmap” released by the China Society of Automotive Engineers proposes that the automotive industry will reach 30 million vehicles by 2020, and that the market share of driver assistance/partially autonomous vehicles will reach 50%. In 2025, strive to be able to market highly or fully autonomous vehicles; from 2026 to 2030, every vehicle should use unmanned or assisted driving systems.

  Huatai Securities analyst Lin Zhixuan and others pointed out that 2020-2030 is the "golden decade" in the development of autonomous driving, and global autonomous driving technology is expected to develop rapidly under the policy drive. The L3 mass-produced models of domestic auto companies are expected to be gradually introduced in 2020-2021, and policy-driven superposition products will be launched. The development of China's autonomous driving industry is expected to accelerate.

Difficulties for traditional car companies to break through

  It is worth noting that, compared to the technology and travel companies that are aggressively advancing on the autonomous driving track, traditional car companies are slightly more difficult in the field of autonomous driving due to their large size and conservative technical routes.

  Photo of the new Jingwei Fu Yumei in the picture

  On June 22, BMW and Mercedes-Benz announced that they will suspend their cooperation in the research and development of autonomous driving technology. Mercedes-Benz said in a joint statement that, based on the current economic and business conditions, the two companies decided to suspend their cooperation after extensively evaluating the cooperation between the two companies.

  In July 2019, the two companies formally signed a contract on the development of an autonomous driving system, announcing a "long-term strategic cooperation." In less than a year, this "giant technology alliance", which had high hopes from the outside world, was declared stranded.

  Unlike most self-developed software and hardware technology companies, traditional car companies often join upstream and downstream suppliers or OEMs to form an "alliance." For example, Volkswagen and the four major suppliers of Nvidia, Bosch, Continental, and Aquantia form the Autonomous Vehicle Alliance Network (NAV), the exclusive alliance between Renault-Nissan and Waymo, and Toyota, General Motors and ARM, Bosch, and Nvidia. Computing Alliance (AVCC), etc.

  Industry insiders believe that in the process of transition from traditional automakers to the field of autonomous driving, there are inherent deficiencies in software development. While the alliance itself involves technology sharing, it also faces a series of cooperation problems.

  Song Jin, a senior analyst at Analysys Automobile, told the Sino-Singapore Jingwei client that most traditional car companies are inferior to technology companies and startups in terms of autonomous driving technology, autonomous driving talent pool, and internal innovation environment. In addition, in order to generate revenue data, it is difficult for traditional car companies to devote themselves to unmanned R&D. Together with the global economic downturn and the development of shared mobility, the pressure on car companies has become greater.

  "In order to make up for the related drawbacks, the traditional car companies in the head seeking to purchase autonomous driving startups or adopt the technology of autonomous driving companies will become a more common choice." Song Jin said.

Will acquisitions become a trend?

  The two major "giants" are also difficult to support in the field of autonomous driving, and many companies have fallen on the road to "burning money."

  According to foreign media reports, Amazon has officially announced that it will acquire the autonomous driving company Zoox for $1.2 billion.

  Public information shows that Zoox has been developing driverless cars since 2014 with the aim of launching on-demand autonomous taxi services. Since its inception, Zoox has raised nearly $1 billion in financing. The most recent financing was in October 2019. After the financing was completed, the valuation was US$3.2 billion.

  Affected by the epidemic, Zoox laid off 120 employees in April and laid off 10%. Zoox said it has been working hard to find funds to keep it running. And Amazon's acquisition will help the company keep running.

  However, in response to the acquisition, Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted on Twitter that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is a "plagiarist."

  In 2019, Tesla accused four of its former employees of stealing trade secrets before joining Zoox. In response, Zoox said: "Zoox admitted that when they joined Zoox's logistics team, some employees from Tesla had Tesla documents related to transportation and warehousing procedures."

  In April of this year, Zoox and Tesla reached a settlement in this lawsuit, paying Tesla an undisclosed amount of compensation and undergoing an audit to ensure that no employees are still using Tesla's secrets.

  Today, compared to the "trouble" with Tesla, the nature of Zoox's own acquisitions has attracted more industry attention.

  Some industry executives predict that in the future, the autonomous driving industry will continue to have similar acquisitions. In addition to Amazon, other large-scale scenes may also make similar actions. Regardless of whether it is manned or logistics, continued high investment will inevitably cause more autonomous driving companies to close or the result of mergers and acquisitions. (Sino-Singapore Jingwei APP)

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