Tech Turns to Automotive: DJI vs. Huawei – KrASIA | Ad On Picture

DJI and Huawei, giants in their respective fields, have a lot in common. They were both founded in Shenzhen and have no plans to go public for the time being.

The only difference is that they are big players in different sectors: one in global communications equipment (Huawei) and the other in commercial unmanned aerial vehicles or drones (DJI).

Both companies recently made the decision to enter the automotive industry as an all-in-one provider of software and hardware solutions to help vehicle manufacturers build better and smarter models.

Your foray into the automotive market

Some time ago, SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile announced the results of its collaboration with DJI with the official release of the Lingxi Intelligent Driving System. The system is said to be able to “achieve any type of obstacle detection and response.”

However, unlike almost all manufacturers on the market, the Wuling model equipped with DJI’s system does not use LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor hardware or even an automated driving chip with high computing power. Instead, DJI used algorithms they developed in their UAV technology to develop their smart driving function for small vehicles, which allowed them to offer a competitive price of 100,000 RMB (14,000 USD) per vehicle.

In contrast, vehicles equipped with Huawei technology, such as the BAIC Arcfox, Changan Avatar, and Great Wall Saloon, are all high-end models priced between RMB 300,000 and RMB 400,000 (USD 42,000 – 56,000). Despite having a significantly higher price tag, these models have the reassurance of a strong hardware foundation such as LiDAR for their high-level assisted driving functions.

In this way, DJI and Huawei have chosen two different methods – the former is based on value for money, while the latter increases value by providing robust functionality.

Motives for starting a career

Huawei and DJI’s motives for entering the automotive industry are almost identical.

Huawei’s smartphone business took a serious hit in 2020 due to US sanctions. Statistics from International Data Corporation, a global market research firm, show that Huawei’s global cell phone shipments totaled 189 million units in 2020, down 21.5% year-on-year. As a result, Huawei’s consumer business revenue was RMB482.9 billion (US$67.6 billion) in 2020, up just a slight 3.3% year-on-year.

DJI’s story is similar. Although its global market share in the consumer UAV market was significant, it declined due to tighter industry controls and flight bans, and the company’s revenue growth slowed. The data shows that DJI’s revenue and net income grew at a single-digit rate in 2018 and 2019, and the company failed to achieve a 30% annual revenue growth rate and 33% net income growth rate through 2020.

For both companies, the intelligent automotive industry represents an attractive prospect as it is still in its early stages of development and has a bright future. According to the 2022 China Intelligent Vehicle Development Trend Insight Report, the sales volume of intelligent vehicles at L2 level and above in China is expected to exceed 10 million units by 2025, representing an intelligent vehicle penetration rate of 49.3%. The size of the smart cockpit market is expected to exceed RMB 100 billion (US$ 14 billion), making it a promising market.

areas of competition

Both companies took different paths in dividing the intelligent vehicle market. Huawei started from the high-end, while DJI took the low-cost route.

This has led to different types of collaborations and outcomes from the vehicle manufacturers they work with.

Those who choose to work with Huawei tend to produce higher-end models with higher prices. For example, Great Wall Motor, a brand where the average price of a car was once RMB80,000 (US$11,200) per unit, launched a high-end model, Saloon, priced up to RMB488,000 (US$688,300). . The saloon model relies on Huawei’s LiDAR sensor hardware and computing platform to support its intelligent functions.

Another example is Changan, which typically sells cars at an average price of RMB 100,000 (US$14,000) per unit and launched the high-end Avatar range in partnership with Huawei. Avatar’s limited-edition model costs 600,000 RMB (84,000 USD).

On the other hand, most brands partner with DJI to produce intermediate and entry-level models aimed at the masses. For example, the XPeng P5, which comes with two HAP LiDARs from DJI’s subsidiary Livox, costs 209,900 RMB (29,400 USD). The second DJI-equipped model is Wuling’s Baojun KiWi EV, priced at 102,800 RMB (14,000 USD).

The influence of their current positions

The difference between the companies’ entry routes into the automotive industry is related to their current positioning in their own industries. Huawei has always been positioned as a manufacturer of high-end products, with the Huawei Mate series and P series being flagship products in the smartphone industry. The Huawei smart home solution also far exceeds the price of other industry players, which is as high as 99,999 RMB (14,000 USD).

In contrast, DJI’s approach to the UAV market has always focused on the performance, quality, cost-effectiveness and ease of use of aerial photography. The company launched its Phantom series in late 2012 in a market where UAVs were often very expensive and focused on making UAVs accessible to the masses.

Essentially, Huawei’s approach is to add value by stacking technology and features into its products, while DJI’s approach is to ensure cost-effectiveness by using algorithms to offset the limitations of its hardware.

Will this low-cost method work for DJI outside of the UAV sector? It’s hard to say for sure, as performance and reliability are often higher priorities in the automotive industry.

DJI subsidiary Livox is able to produce more cost-effective systems because it uses a double-wedge prism scanner in its LiDAR system, which consists of fewer components. However, the disadvantage is the lack of real-time information, since the system is slower. Such a system would work in static scenarios such as mapping terrain and ensuring security.

However, intelligent driving systems are often placed in much more complex and dynamic scenarios, moving at high speeds and coping with ever-changing road conditions. These require a much faster response time from their sensors and greater sensitivity, which DJI’s dual wedge prism scanner may not have.

After setbacks with its LiDAR business, DJI turned around and started selling all-in-one solutions to continue on the path of cost-effective performance. The company currently provides all-in-one intelligent driving software and hardware products, including D80, D80+, D130 and D130+, of which D80 and D130 are mainly L2-level basic auxiliary driving functions and ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) and Auto include -Following, automatic parking and other functions. D80+ and D130+ are more advanced versions.

These solutions have also been integrated into its partners’ vehicles, such as the KiWi EV 2023 model developed in collaboration with Wuling, which features a D80 system. This means that the KiWi EV model can only perform assisted driving at speeds below 80 km/h and covers this function mainly in urban areas and on highways. As one of the simplest products in the DJI lineup, the D80 does not use LiDAR or high-precision maps, and the processing power of the whole system is only 16 TOPS (trillion operations per second).

For comparison, the Arcfox Alpha-S HI, made in cooperation with Huawei, uses the Huawei MDC (Mobile Data Center) Intelligent Driving Computing platform, which has a computing power of 400 TOPS and contains two Nvidia Orin X chips.

This system is also used in Changan’s Avatar 11, Great Walls Saloon, the Li Auto L9, the XPeng G9 and the SAIC Feifan R7.

Different visions

From a technical point of view, DJI’s approach has the advantages of low cost and high scalability. The company transplanted its UAV technology directly into its intelligent vehicle systems. Based on binocular vision and point cloud algorithms, this technology is used to obtain geometric information, including depth information, to assess whether the obstacles ahead threaten driving safety, thereby eliminating the dependency on LiDAR.

However, this leads to limited perception and computing power. When DJI’s systems encounter scenarios they can’t handle, they return control to the driver – a situation that can be dangerous, especially if the driver is distracted or thinks the system can handle the obstacle automatically . An example of this is the lack of high-precision mapping in the Lingxi Intelligent Driving System, which requires drivers to take over at misplaced intersections and construction sites.

At the other end of the spectrum, Huawei has introduced a full support system for the Arcfox Alpha-S HI version, covering sensing, decision making, steering, braking and power. The inclusion of such a system comes with a price tag to match, but means it’s powerful enough to help the vehicle stop in extreme circumstances and handle a much wider range of scenarios.

Both companies still have a long way to go in terms of development. DJI’s product vision may need to be adjusted if it wants to compete with other intelligent vehicle systems. Although Huawei has the advantage of having its powerful hardware mass-produced and installed, it still has some improvements to make for its software upgrades.

Regardless of how both companies shape their journey in the automotive industry, user experience and system reliability are essential to success. Who will prevail in the competition for orders from vehicle manufacturers depends on how things develop in the next few crucial years.

This article has been adapted based on a special feature originally written by Brother Yu and published on Box Rice Finance and Economics (WeChat ID: daxiongfan). KrASIA has the right to translate, adapt and publish its content.

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