Self-driving tech better for factories than cars

BYD’s new luxury brand, Yangwang, is selling its first model, the U8, for more than one million yuan ($160,000).

CNBC | Evelyn Cheng

SHANGHAI – Fully autonomous driving is “fundamentally impossible” and the technology would be better applied to manufacturing, according to a Chinese battery and electric car company BYD.

Many electric car and tech companies are working on self-driving technology. Using some form of technology to help drivers park and perform other tasks is increasingly a feature that Tesla and electric car brands in China are using to entice buyers – with an eye on fully autonomous driving.

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But BYD, by far the largest domestic seller of electric cars in China, took a different view.

“We believe that autonomous technology completely separate from humans is very, very remote and fundamentally impossible,” BYD spokesperson Li Yunfei said in Mandarin, as translated by CNBC.

“When we think of [self-driving tech] from all aspects, human psychological safety needs, ethics, regulation, technology – including application in this industry – we have not understood [the logic] and we think it’s probably a false proposition,” Li told reporters on the sidelines of the Shanghai auto show on Tuesday.

“There may be many industries and companies that invest a lot of money in this [tech]and after investing for many years, it will prove that it is getting nowhere,” he said.

Shanghai auto show opens - first since China ended its Covid controls

Startups and established tech companies have been working for years in China to develop fully self-driving technology. Some companies have won approval from local authorities in the suburbs of Beijing, Shanghai and other cities to operate self-driving taxis.

For personal cars, fully autonomous vehicles are not yet allowed on Chinese public roads.

BYD’s Li said about 2 million people are killed in traffic accidents each year, and in a fully standalone scenario it would be difficult to pinpoint who is at fault.

The developers of the assisted driving technology say its features, such as smooth braking when detecting a road obstacle, can help make driving safer.

BYD also offers driver assist technology in select models. Earlier this month, the company announced that it launches new shock absorption technology for its high-end cars.

Factory Automation

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