Foxconn EVs aim to compete with Tesla with autonomous driving technology

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TOKYO – Foxconn’s electric vehicle platform will feature driver assistance technology similar to that used by Tesla and Nissan Motor when they launched this year, with plans for greater levels of autonomous capabilities in 2022, says a Japanese tech manager who involved in the project said Nikkei Asia.

The plans underscore how Foxconn, best known as a manufacturer of consumer electronics, wants to challenge established car manufacturers with its MIH project “Open Platform for Electric Vehicles”, which aims to produce a “kit” including software and hardware for the new electric vehicle manufacturers can help to scale up quickly.

Shinpei Kato, founder and chief technology officer of the Japanese start-up Tier IV for autonomous driving, which is part of the Foxconn project and leads its software for autonomous driving, said in an interview that the EV kit released in October, so-called Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) will provide. This level enables automated steering, braking and acceleration when cruising and changing lanes to support the driver.

Level 4 autonomous driving – defined as no human intervention under limited conditions – should be incorporated into the next version of the kit planned for 2022, Kato added. Then Tier IV’s own open source operating system for driverless cars called Autoware will be ready, he said.

“MIH will begin bringing the already commercialized system to market so that it can be sold immediately without legal issues,” said Kato, referring to the still developing legal framework in various countries that is required to ensure level 4 safety for autonomous driving to guarantee. “But like Tesla, computer [for the first EV Kit] should allow the system to be scaled up to level 4, “added Kato.

A taxi equipped with autonomous driving software is preparing a test drive in Tokyo for Japan’s Tier IV-guided development. (Courtesy photo of Stage IV)

Cadillac’s Super Cruise and Nissan’s ProPilot 2.0 are examples of ADAS technologies, both of which enable hands-free driving – with the car automatically following the vehicle in front – while the driver has to be careful. These conventional driver assistance systems often lack scalability because they are developed as independent systems and cannot connect additional sensors for advanced functions later, says Kato.

Foxconn’s MIH project includes nearly 1,700 partners and aims to lower the entry barriers to the electric vehicle market and reduce the time and resources required to develop and manufacture electric cars. The companies involved include the mobile chip developers Arm Holdings and Qualcomm, MediaTek, Amazons AWS, Microsoft, Texas Instruments and the leading battery provider Contemporary Amperex Technology.

Foxconn said in a December press release that Tier IV and other MIH alliance partners would “provide level 4 and higher autonomous driving technology.” Tier IV is responsible for “defining the functional requirements of software applications,” Foxconn said in the press release.

When asked for comment, Nikkei Asia said that “due to commercial sensitivity, we will not provide specific details about these projects until they are ready for publication.”

Foxconn will hold its second members’ meeting on Friday after the first in March, as MIH prepares to officially be established as a separate operation from next month, independent of the world’s largest iPhone assembler.

Tier IV, backed by Japanese insurer Sompo Holdings, is known to power the Toyota Motor e-pallet vehicle that will be used in the Olympic Village during the Tokyo 2020 Games with self-driving technology.

Kato said offering an EV package through MIH would allow various EV parts to be integrated into Tier IV-owned auto goods, potentially expanding its customer base. To date, only the largest automakers have had the hardware and software design skills to interact with the Autoware system.

“It makes a lot of sense that the MIH positions [itself] in the middle, by merging hardware and software to create a set of standards, “he explained the reasons for joining Tier IV.

Foxconn, formerly known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, relies on the EV business as a new growth driver and aims to capture a 10% share of the global EV market between 2025 and 2027.

The company announced in May a joint venture with Stellantis, the fourth largest auto company in the world that owns brands like Alfa Romeo and Fiat, to develop software. Foxconn also set up a joint venture with Yulon Motor, Taiwan’s second largest automaker, to develop electric cars in February last year. The company also announced agreements with Chinese electric car maker Byton, Chinese car maker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and American electric car startup Fisker.

Japanese automakers have focused much of their efforts on developing fuel-efficient, low-emission gasoline engines and hybrid vehicles instead of electric vehicles. When asked if MIH is approaching Japanese automakers, Kato said that was not on the minds of MIH executives as they believe the automakers will of course be interested in the project.

“Japanese automakers are on the fence right now,” he said. “But MIH believes that these automakers will come to the project spontaneously as it progresses.”

Additional coverage from Lauly Li in Taipei



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