17/08/2022

China’s autonomous driving is worse than the United States

By micohuang

China’s autonomous driving is worse than the United States

An industry that needs to stick to ‘long-distance running’.

The distance from Phoenix, Arizona to El Paso, Texas is approximately 690 kilometers, which is shown on the map and takes more than 6.5 hours by car. If you’ve recently driven on the highway between two cities, the truck that may have passed by you is self-driving.

This is the second self-driving logistics transportation line that self-driving company Tucson will cooperate with UPS (United Parcel Service), one of the largest express carriers in the world, plus the first line opened since March 2019. , Tucson Future said that the current cooperation between the two parties in driverless transportation services has increased to 20 times a week, 10 times a week for each line.

China’s autonomous driving is worse than the United States

Tucson Future Has Opened Two Transportation Lines in the U.S. | Tucson Future

It is worth mentioning that Tucson’s future transportation service commercializes autonomous driving. In the mainline logistics transportation scenario, this is one of the few companies that has really put autonomous driving into commercialization, in the United States.

Across the North Pacific, eyes turned to China on the other side. Although autonomous driving is in full swing in China, it seems that no company has dared to say that it has commercialized it so far (low-speed unmanned driving is temporarily out of our scope of discussion). It seems that the United States is making progress on autonomous driving faster than China.

So, what is causing the gap between China and the US in autonomous driving?

Why is China’s development more ‘slow’?

The focus of our discussion is on autonomous driving in the scenario of mainline logistics, and the carriers of transportation are basically trucks.

At present, even if it is an autonomous driving company that announces commercialization, it will definitely be equipped with a ‘safety officer’ in the car, whose role is to supervise the vehicle during the driving process, and take over the vehicle in time if there is an unexpected situation to prevent the accident. disaster.

A company that has not announced commercialization does not mean that there is no business progress. Some companies have also begun to put self-driving trucks ‘on the road’, but these are uniformly classified as ‘testing’, or ‘trial operations’. In other words, China’s logistics autonomous driving companies are still in the trial operation stage. From this point of view, the United States is indeed ahead.

There are some historical reasons for the ‘front’ here. In an interview with Geekpark (ID: geekpark), the future of Tucson mentioned that the United States began to deploy driverless vehicles as early as 15 years ago, and from a time perspective, it does have a first-mover advantage. In addition, the United States is faster than China in terms of legal formulation, standards and policy support.

China’s autonomous driving is worse than the United States

The United States laid out driverless cars much earlier than China | Tucson Future

Since the United States is a federal country, each state has its own laws for autonomous driving, and some states have a relatively loose policy scope, as well as commercialization. For example, the second route that Tucson will choose in the future includes Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Commercialization is possible, proving that these states allow self-driving companies to play their part here.

If companies have a demand for the commercialization of autonomous driving, they can carry out business within the permitted scope. The government does not play a big role in supervision, but the responsibility of the company is heavier. Tesla’s Autopilot crash and Uber’s self-driving killing are prime examples.

By contrast, at the legal level, China’s regulation of autonomous driving is very strict. It is understood that the current vehicle operations of all car companies or autonomous driving companies in China are all ‘road tests’ or ‘trial operations’. Clearly, in order to avoid high risks, China’s route is focused on safety.

China’s autonomous driving is worse than the United States

China’s regulation of autonomous driving is stricter than the United States | Zhijia Technology

‘The Chinese government is relatively responsible for more things and has more supervision, which means greater responsibility. ‘Rong Li, general manager of Smart Plus Technology China, told Geek Park that Plus.ai also focuses on the development of autonomous driving technology in logistics and transportation scenarios. At the same time, Rong Li also said that the strong supervision does not mean that the development of autonomous driving is slow.

‘A lot of advanced technologies we see now are originated in the United States, but China has more of them when the technology has been implemented on a large scale or even completely changed people’s lives,’ said Rong Li as an example. According to the 5G and vehicle-road collaboration that China has vigorously promoted in the past two years, which is different from the previous pure autonomous driving technology route, the ‘cloud + vehicle + road’ technical route may get the opportunity to overtake on the curve.

Beyond regulations, commercial differences

In addition to the regulatory level, there are some differences in the commercialization of autonomous driving between China and the United States. For example, the labor cost that practitioners are very concerned about, how big is the difference between China and the United States?

To answer this question, we may look at it from the perspective of demand, which is mainly divided into the following levels:

1. From the perspective of the government, according to the above, China obviously has more needs for the commercialization of autonomous driving, but due to the immaturity of various conditions, it is still in the trial operation stage, and it is working hard to develop at the level of vehicle-road coordination. This is a liability issue, and also includes a technical route issue;

2. From the perspective of enterprises, that is, the needs of economic interests, the labor cost in the United States is indeed higher than that in China, and the same applies to changing to truck drivers.

According to a report obtained by Geek Park, the labor cost of American truck drivers is about three times higher than that of Chinese truck drivers, and Tucson confirmed this to Geek Park in the future. From the point of view of business operation, enterprises definitely hope to save a certain amount of labor and replace them with machines, which is a large cost of operation.

China’s autonomous driving is worse than the United States

China and the United States also have the problem of the shortage of truck drivers | Vision China

However, there is also a shortage of manpower in China. According to data, there are 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States and 16 million long-distance truck drivers in China. Although the gap in the number of drivers in the United States is larger, in the opinion of some practitioners, there will be a labor gap in China in the future. ‘There aren’t any young people doing the hard work anymore. ‘ A senior person in the industry told Geek Park, taking this epidemic as an example, let alone driving, the return of drivers to work has become a problem, and driverless driving happens to be the best opportunity for this type of scenario.

In addition, not only the labor cost, but also the cost of autonomous transportation actually includes a very important part: fuel consumption.

The industry’s digital observation on the fuel consumption savings of autonomous driving is basically in the range of 5-10%. Recently, Tucson Future and UC San Diego jointly completed a study that shows that Tucson Future’s autonomous driving technology can save at least 10% of the fuel consumption of heavy-duty trucks.

Don’t underestimate this 10%. The fuel consumption cost accounts for about 30% of the operating expenses of the Sino-US fleet, which is no less than the labor cost. If autonomous driving can turn that 30 percent into 27 percent, every percentage point is a big expense, whether it’s a large or small fleet. From this perspective, China and the United States are both standing on the same starting line.

3. Common people: According to the research report on the global application of artificial intelligence technology released by the Boston Consulting Group in 2018, 31% of the Chinese surveyed said that their enterprises or institutions have begun to use artificial intelligence technology-related technologies. tools, the proportion is 24% in the United States, and China’s acceptance of artificial intelligence is higher.

So far, we can draw a simple conclusion: there is indeed a gap between China and the United States, but it is not as big as people think. On some levels, China’s needs are even more urgent than the United States.

Where are the large-scale commercial nodes?

When it comes to autonomous driving, the first thing most people think of is to replace labor, black technology… But if it is really put into large-scale commercial operations, I am afraid it will take a little time.

Zhijia Technology completed an autonomous driving service at the end of 2019. In less than 3 days, Zhijia Technology’s L4 self-driving truck traveled 2,800 miles (4,500km) across the east and west coasts of the United States, and completed the service for the dairy company. Land O’Lakes provides end-to-end freight services.

Rong Li mentioned that in the process of completing this autonomous driving service, Zhijia Technology researched and complied with the corresponding autonomous driving policies of each passing state, so as to be able to perform ultra-long-distance transportation. The significance of this transportation service is not only that the autonomous driving technology can support long-distance vehicle driving, but more importantly, the climate changes greatly from west to east in the United States. Data helps a lot.

Tucson also mentioned in the future that the newly opened routes have longer distances, require longer night driving, and experience a variety of severe weather conditions, such as heavy rainfall and windy weather. For technology service companies, data acquisition is also an important link.

So, where are the nodes for large-scale applications of autonomous driving?

Rongli believes that large-scale commercialization is highly related to the maturity of technology development. That is to say, it can be done technically, and at the same time, it can bring huge commercial value.

Electric vehicles appeared in the Edison era, but in recent years, the real commercialization of household electric vehicles is actually due to the immature technology. Similarly for autonomous driving, there is no real mature place that can make the company’s operations achieve the effect of reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

China’s autonomous driving is worse than the United States

Zhijia Technology has also launched a trial operation in China | Zhijia Technology

As we all know, high-level autonomous driving requires a large number of sensors, and there is no shortage of expensive lidars. We also mentioned in the previous article “The First Test of Low-speed Unmanned Driving” in Geek Park, a small unmanned vehicle. A lot of money, not to mention normal cars and trucks.

While emphasizing commercialization, there is a premise, that is, the productization of autonomous trucks. In Rongli’s view, it is much more expensive to install a large number of sensors on an existing truck to scale than a truck with intelligent driving in the front, which can be called a product. At present, Zhijia Technology is working with FAW Jiefang to build a pre-installed self-driving truck. Rongli has calculated the account with Geek Park. If a team buys this vehicle, the cost of a single vehicle can be recovered within two years.

The autonomous driving industry still needs more open policies and environmental support | Vision China

In the future, TuSimple told Geek Park that the entire industry still needs more open policies and environmental support from various countries, as well as stronger technical support, so as to accelerate the commercialization of the global autonomous driving industry. In addition, the reliability of the technology also needs to be further verified. In the future, TuSimple hopes to carry out the first logistics transportation without the supervision of safety officers in 2021.

Indeed, from the perspective of the entire industry, autonomous driving is a long-distance race, which requires companies to observe the development of the industry with a long-term perspective of more than ten years. Compared with large-scale commercialization, it is the most important thing that autonomous driving companies should do at present.

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