- Chinese electric car giant BYD on Monday announced a new technology system to stabilize car rides through rough terrain, sharp turns and even shallow water.
- BYD counts Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway as one of its supporters.
- BYD did not address what the company’s new DiSus system would cost to use, or when it would become widely available.
BYD’s Han electric car, pictured here at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show, is one of the most popular new energy vehicles in China.
Evelyn Cheng | CNBC
SHENZHEN, China – Electric car giant BYD is banking on new driver assistance technology to smooth out car journeys and get a leg up on the electric car competition.
BYD, backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, announced Monday a new technology system to stabilize car rides through rough terrain, sharp turns and even shallow water. The shock absorption technology is set to be a feature of the company’s recently launched premium brand Yangwang.
“Traditionally, luxury cars were determined by brand and history. For new luxury cars, it’s a question of which technology and which products,” BYD founder Wang Chuanfu said in Mandarin at a launch event on Monday, according to a CNBC translation.
He claimed that the technology represented a “breakthrough” that “leads and surpasses foreign technological level.”
The update comes ahead of the Shanghai Auto Show, which starts next week, where many Chinese car companies are set to make product and model announcements.
Part of the technical system uses the same “lidar” sensors used in assisted driving, according to BYD. Lidar, short for “light detection and ranging”, uses lasers to create detailed maps of the surrounding area.
The automaker said in a release that the new “DiSus” system “provides a basis for the future development of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).”
The company has taken a relatively cautious approach to self-driving technology.
Asked about “smart driving” during a call with investors in late March, BYD management said autonomous driving still faces the challenge of determining responsibility in the event of an accident. Still, management said, advanced assisted driving technology has the potential to improve overall safety. That’s according to a filing of last month’s call that was accessed via the Wind Information database.
The industry as a whole has been working to balance ambitious driver assistance options with measured safety protocols. EV leader Tesla in February recalled more than 360,000 cars over assisted driving software for city streets that it said could cause crashes.
This city-assisted driving software is not available to Tesla drivers in China.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Tesla’s shock-absorbing capabilities compared to BYD’s, but other car companies in China are looking at similar technology.
In September, Nio’s investment fund Nio Capital led a $39 million funding round into Boston-based ClearMotion, which develops active suspension software.
BYD’s Wang did not address what the company’s new DiSus system would cost to use, or when it would become widely available.
Two of the compatible car models – Yangwang’s upcoming U8 SUV and Denza N7 SUV – are not yet available for deliveries. Car giant Daimler has a small stake in BYD’s Denza brand.
BYD said some of its existing Han, Tang and Denza models are set to receive the new technology through an over-the-air upgrade.
The new system comes in three versions – “damping”, “air” and “hydraulic” – which are set for individual integration with certain BYD models.
Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro
In the first quarter, BYD said it sold 264,647 all-electric passenger cars, an increase of more than 80% from a year ago. Sales of hybrid passenger cars doubled from a year ago to 283,270 in the first quarter.
Tesla, for its part, said it delivered more than 422,000 cars worldwide in the first quarter, without sharing a regional breakdown. China typically accounts for well over 20% of Tesla’s revenue.