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Chinese car factory in SA: 'Nothing stops BAIC from piloting autonomous vehicles in PE'

2018-03-01 16:08

 • Autonomous Vehicles for BAIC

 • Port Elizabeth future base for piloting Autonomous technology

 • Announces plans to list Shanghai Stock Exchange   

Port Elizabeth - Chinese vehicle manufacturer BAIC Group is planning to launch their first ever autonomous vehicles in 2018. Autonomous cars are vehicles that can operate themselves without a driver.

According to BAIC South African SBU, Tao Li, Beijing Electric Vehicle Co (BJEV), the electric vehicle unit of BAIC Group, will test its autonomous vehicles in a few months to come in Beijing.

"The South African motoring industry has taken a cautionary and slightly sceptical approach around autonomous vehicles citing poor road South African infrastructure as a barrier for entry. We, on the other hand, are optimistic and believe anything is possibility in the near future."

Li said it will be a few years before autonomous vehicle technology diffuses into the South African mainstream and for adoption to take place "but BAIC SA’s familial ties with BJEV will open a world of new possibilities and partnerships instantly test the viability of this technology for South Africa".

Li said: "Nothing stops BAIC South Africa to pilot autonomous vehicles in the mid-size city of Port Elizabeth where the BAIC manufacturing plant is currently under construction. Nelson Mandela Bay can in fact be a learning laboratory for the African autonomous vehicle universe."

The BAIC South African plant, situated in the Coega SEZ, is scheduled for completion in 2018 Q2.  It will focus on assembly of conventional fuel vehicles for the BAIC vehicle model line, the D20 hatch back/sedan and the X25 SUV.

Li said BAIC South Africa remained proud of the BAIC Group for setting an ambitious vision and plans, its performance and pioneering spirit in "the new paradigm of mobility".

Autonomous vehicles

In 2009 BJEV was founded and in 2016 the company received its permit to manufacture electric vehicles. It is China’s second largest new-energy vehicle producer.

New BAIC Arc Fox 7. Image: Supplied

In 2017, this division  reported the sale of 100 000 new-energy vehicles.

Data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers indicates that BAIC BJEV’s sales accounted for around 13% of the 777 000 new-energy vehicles sold in China in 2017.

Riding on the success of its electric vehicles, in 2017 BAIC China and Baidu, China’s internet technology giant entered a strategic agreement. BAIC is a partner for Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving program. 

The companies intend to produce vehicles with Level 3 autonomous features by 2019 and by 2021 the companies intend to introduce fully Level 4 cars which are entirely self-driving.  In terms of the strategic partnership, BAIC will integrate technologies of Baidu such as cybersecurity, image recognition and self-driving, as well as its DuerOS virtual assistant capabilities into its vehicles.

Both companies believe that by 2019, more than 1 million of BAIC’s production vehicles will feature Baidu networking tech, and the companies will be working on building out an automotive cloud-based ecosystem of products and services, too, including crowd-sourced traffic info and more.

Stock exchange listing

Earlier this month BAIC Group also announced plans to list its electric vehicle unit on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

In the deal, BJEV that received a valuation of R53 billion will be bought by ChengDu QianFeng Electronics Co. Ltd., one of BAIC Group’s listed units.

The deal comes at a time when investors, including start-ups internet companies and real-estate developers, are rushing into the emerging electric vehicle industry in the world’s largest auto market. 

Li said: "Even though other car manufacturers find it impossible to achieve the concept of autonomous cars in SA, we should not keep out of touch with global developments. There is often a sense South Africa lags behind. We should take a more optimistic approach and plan for the future."


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