William Li is being mobbed. At a gala dinner in Shanghai, the founder of Chinese electric carmaker Nio Inc. can barely move forward in the buffet queue before being stopped for another selfie, handshake or hug. Swapping his usual attire of jeans and a T-shirt for a tailored grey suit and blue dress shirt, the tall 46-year-old happily obliges with a smile. Li manages to spoon a small amount of fried rice and vegetables onto his plate, but he's not here for the food. Over the next three hours, Li poses for hundreds more photos, chatting with customers of the automaker he started just over six years ago and has built into a way of life -- at least for the people who buy his cars -- with clubhouses, a round-the-clock battery recharging service and even clothing, food and exercise equipment, all decked out in Nio's geometric logo. As Li works the room, a video backdrop shows six performers, each wearing a different-colored Nio hoodie, singing a self-composed song dedicated to the company.
China is shaping up to be the first real test of Big Tech's ambitions in the world of carmaking, with giants from Huawei Technologies Co. to Baidu Inc. plowing almost $19 billion into electric and self-driving vehicle ventures widely seen as the future of transport. While Apple Inc. has long had plans for its own car and Alphabet Inc. has Waymo, its autonomous driving unit, the size -- and speed -- of the move by China's tech titans puts them at the vanguard of that broader push. The lure is an industry that's becoming increasingly high tech as it pivots away from the combustion engine, with sensors and operating systems making cars more like computers, and the prospect of autonomy re-envisioning how people use will them. As the world's biggest market for new-energy cars, China is a key battlefield. Established automakers like Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. are already slogging it out with local upstarts such as market darling Nio Inc. and Xpeng Inc.
Chinese technology giant Baidu Inc (9888.HK) expects to supply its Apollo autonomous driving system to 1 million cars in the next three to five years, a senior company executive said on Monday. Li Zhenyu, senior corporate vice president at Baidu, made the remarks at the 2021 Shanghai motor show. Baidu established its autonomous driving unit Apollo in 2017. The unit mainly supplies technology powered by artificial intelligence and works with automakers such as Geely (GEELY.UL), Ford Motor Co (F.N) and GAC (601238.SS). In January, Baidu said it would set up a company with Geely to make smart electric vehicles (EV), which will count on Baidu's intelligent driving capabilities and Geely's car manufacturing expertise.
This "S-Class of EVs" is the first full-electric car from Mercedes to come to the US, combining a low drag coefficient with a large battery pack for a range of 478 miles, using Europe's WLTP estimate. Tesla, Porsche and Audi already have electric luxury sedans, but this looks like an interesting and extremely classy competitor. Roberto Baldwin is ready to walk us through the features and its futuristic interior, which includes a biometric sensor for logging in with voice or fingerprint. There's no word on how much it will cost, and we haven't taken it on the road yet, but I'm already digging its unique taillights and fastback hatch. It's barely been a month since DJI unveiled a new drone, and the company already has another to show.
Disappointed Tesla fans have spent the week waiting for an updated version of the electric car's advanced driver assistance system, Autopilot. Called "Full Self-Driving," or FSD, it's been available to a small, select group of Tesla owners since October, but CEO Elon Musk promised widespread access starting last week. Then he pushed out the wider release a few more days, and now it's the weekend and Tesla drivers are still waiting. Even if Tesla drivers don't have access to a more adept version of Autopilot that can autosteer, stop at stop signs, and accelerate on smaller city streets, the original automated assistance system is still available for anyone who bought the extra feature. While Tesla has offered Autopilot since 2014, competitors have cropped up, like General Motors' Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance feature in 2017.
The long-rumored Apple car might finally become a reality. After sputtering in development several years ago and then being shut down before it saw the light of day, the tech giant's car project is apparently back on track. Several outlets, including CNBC and the Wall Street Journal, have reported that Apple is discussing a deal to manufacture a vehicle in the U.S. Apple did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment but the company rarely discusses future products. Given Apple's status as the world's most valuable company – it's worth about $2.3 trillion on the stock market – any new product it's pursuing should be taken seriously. "We continue to believe it's a matter of when, not if, Apple enters the EV race," Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives wrote in a research note, referring to electric vehicles.
Toyota Motor Corp. is tapping a star Silicon Valley robotics expert to help put the final touches on an operating system it says will go up against that of Tesla Inc. Called Arene, the system allows new features to be installed in a car's existing hardware over the air and provides a platform for developers to create software. It's being developed by Toyota's new technology research arm Woven Planet Holdings Inc., led by Chief Executive Officer James Kuffner, a former Google engineer. Tesla is already a leader when it comes to over-the-air updates of a car's operating systems, which control everything from braking to Wi-Fi, locking and lights. It has been upgrading its electric vehicles' battery range and autonomous functions remotely via updates since 2012. On an earnings call last week, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said Tesla is willing to license its software capabilities to third parties and is already in talks with original equipment manufacturers.
The car, however, didn't work as advertised. It could drive, turn corners and stop on a dime. But the fancy technology features VW had promised were either absent or broken. The company's programmers hadn't yet figured out how to update the car's software remotely. Its futuristic head-up display that was supposed to flash speed, directions and other data onto the windshield didn't function.
New York (CNN Business)Talk of a possible Apple car is back. Apple (AAPL) hasn't commented publicly on its plans for the project, nicknamed Titan, so it's not clear exactly what will come of the effort. Some who follow the company think it could release a whole Apple-branded, electric, self-driving car. Others think it's more likely Apple will partner with existing automakers to sell an operating system (iDrive, maybe?), self-driving tools or other technology. There are some clues available, though.
As a product of Gen X, I am perhaps among the last generation to be obsessed with the notion of car ownership. I love the different body designs. I love how each one drives differently. I love the history and culture that surrounds the different automotive brands. I love the activity of going out for rides with no objective other than to take the top down on my Camaro convertible and drive.