XPeng Motors held its Tech Day this past Saturday and laid out the company's roadmap for fully autonomous driving implementation.
XPeng's ADAS system, called XPILOT, is currently using version 2.5, which is basically an advanced version of Level 2 autonomous driving features. During Tech Day, it was announced that XPilot 3.0 would soon be released, most likely in the first quarter of 2021.
XPILOT 3.0 features Navigation Guided Pilot, or NGO, which is XPeng's version of Navigate on Autopilot (NoA) which Tesla uses. However, Xpeng isn't the only Chinese automaker to release its version of NoA. That's because NIO launched Navigation On Pilot (NOP) earlier this year. According to NIO, its version allows the vehicle to drive on and off highway ramps, overtake, merge lanes, and drive according to planned navigation routes.
In case you're a little fuzzy with the ADAS acronyms, here they are:
- Tesla: Navigate on Autopilot (NoA)
- NIO: Navigate on Pilot (NOP)
- XPeng: Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP)
With the announcement of NGP, XPeng will join NIO and Tesla as the only automakers in China to offer an advanced ADAS system that can navigate, including lane changes and turns, in certain situations completely on its own.
The smart EV sector is at a crossroads of a long journey. You need to excel in three areas, including end-to-end R&D capability, data operation, and speed of growth in order to gain long-term competitive advantages. For smart cars, 2020 to 2022 is a period of gathering momentum. The sector will expect an accelerated growth from 2023 to 2025 which will impose significant disruption to the traditional ICE vehicles. I believe that in 2021 the third generation of autonomous driving will become a standard spec for smart cars. Xpeng’s Navigation Guided Pilot function will become a benchmark feature. - He Xiaopeng, XPeng's Chairman & CEO
XPeng's P7 has been called China’s first “L3 autonomy-ready” production vehicle and is equipped with Nvidia’s self-driving supercomputer Drive Xavier. It also boasts a perception suite that includes 14 cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and five millimeter-wave radars.
InsideEVs was able to get the transcript from a Tech Day interview with XinZhou WU, Vice President of Autonomous Driving for XPeng:
What is your core competitiveness in terms of autonomous driving technology?
Wu: Our core competitiveness is our end-to-end in-house software R&D for autonomous driving. In the past few years, we have developed a full-stack of self-developed technologies and implemented them into our production models. There are currently only two automakers in the world that have the end-to-end autonomous driving capability. XPeng is one of them.
What do you mean by end-to-end in-house R&D? Why do you pursue this approach?
Wu: End-to-end R&D means that you not only build perception, positioning, planning & decision-making, and vehicle control modules in your system, but also build comprehensive cloud data collection, data labeling, analytical tools and network training capability. This close-loop data and machine learning capability sets a critical foundation for future iteration and enables us to conduct upgrades at a fast pace.
What have you done to make your system tailored for China’s complex road conditions?
Wu: China is known for its complex road conditions with a large variety of parking scenarios. These could be complicated traffic signals, unknown types of vehicles, mixed types of pedestrians, construction sites etc. which all make autonomous driving and auto parking very challenging.
Standard autonomous driving architecture includes perception (radar + visual perception), positioning, sensor fusion, motion control and motion planning. On top of this, we have added map management and integration, behavior planning, and behavior/motion prediction. This makes our system the most powerful autonomous driving architecture among production models in China.
There’s a high expectation for the XPILOT 3.0 to be launched in Q1 2021. What will be the key features?
Wu: The main new features for the XPILOT 3.0 are Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP) for highways and memory auto parking for carparks. These features address some of the major pain points for drivers in China.
What’s special about XPeng’s Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP)?
Wu: Built on XPILOT 3.0, which will be launched in 1Q 2021, Xpeng’s NGP Highway Solution achieves autonomous driving from point A to point B on the highway. It will be available on any highway with high-precision maps in China and will be the most advanced navigation guided autonomous driving system in production models in China.
Why does XPeng’s NGP work better for China’s complex road conditions?
Wu: It is really a combination of our localized autonomous driving software capability and a powerful hardware architecture.
We’ve incorporated China-specific scenarios such as traffic cone recognition and avoidance, large truck avoidance, night overtaking reminder, faulty vehicle avoidance, vehicle follow on congested roads, covering most major highway networks, and selective major city roads in China. We can also handle adverse weather conditions, complex roads, and places without GPS signals.
It is the only 360° dual-perception system in the industry with better identification of the surrounding. It also has the most powerful positioning capability among production models.
XPeng’s auto parking feature is well received by customers in China. What’s special about the new auto parking function?
Wu: XPeng’s auto parking feature achieved the highest score on record from the i-VISTA and is widely recognized in China. It covers 85% of parking scenarios and it takes an average of 32.3 seconds for auto parking among our users.
It can recognize parallel and vertical parking spaces, on both marked or unmarked parking lots, and support a large variety of parking scenarios.
The XPILOT 3.0 will release the Memory Parking function for parking lots. The feature will recognize side-front parking spaces and will be extended to cover “the last mile” of parking with the ability to avoid obstacles, to plan routes and execute parking.
It is the world's first auto parking system in production models that do not require any car park modification. Every time you go home, your XPeng can park all by itself.
Path to Level 5 full autonomous driving
XPeng also laid out its future roadmap to fully autonomous driving. In no less than five years, the company plans to have fully-autonomous cars ready to go. These vehicles will not require any human intervention, and won't even be required to have a steering wheel, although we suspect they will.
XPeng calls that the "Smart EV Disruption Phase" in the roadmap, and that occurs when XPILOT 5.0 is introduced. XPeng's plan is to release XPILOT 3.5 in 2022, then sometime in 2023 to 2024 they will release XPILOT 4.0. It's unclear whether XPILOT 4.0 will be a fully functioning, complete Level 4 Autonomous driving suite, which is basically fully functioning-self driving features. However, it will certainly be more advanced than Level 3, and a driver will be required to be present in order to take over control of the vehicle if necessary.
Other announcements during Tech Day include new features and system improvements to XPeng's Xmart OS including the new “All Voice In-car System”. This feature was launched just 2 days before Tech Day and promises to improve the user experience of XPeng vehicles dramatically.
Here's what XPeng's Vice President of Internet, JI Yu, had to say about the new voice assistant:
What’s unique about your new All Voice In-Car System?
JY: Our new All Voice In-Car System launched this week has two main cutting-edge features.
First of all, it is the world’s first in-car voice system that executes a comprehensive range of in-car functions. We’ve significantly broadened the functions initiated by the voice assistant, which now covers all main aspects of the driving, vehicle control, and infotainment ecosystem.
Secondly, it is the world’s first to respond to continuous driver-vehicle dialogues and is able to execute 10 voice commands every 25 seconds. Our in-house designed voice assistant will remain engaged in a continuous listening mode, ready to be intervened at any time, and execute the next command during the dialogue.
What’s new about the Xmart OS 2.1.0?
JY: Our Xmart OS is now the world’s first open-end vehicle hardware system which allows third-party applications to access vehicle status and data to produce tailor-make infotainment content. Over 50 third-party applications have been added and over 50 AliPay Mini-programs installed with voiceprint payment support.
It is also the world’s first programmable smart lighting system where users can personalize the P7’s lighting effect in the future.
In addition, it offers the broadest range of infotainment content. Users will have access to exclusive content via a vast collection of major audio and video apps, including Tencent Music, iQiyi, and Youku, etc.. Users can build their smart cockpit into a personalized infotainment library.
Is XPeng for real?
XPeng continues to prove that they are going to be one of the few electric vehicle startups in China that makes it. They already have their own factory operational, which is rare for a new automotive company in China, and recently announced plans for a second factory. XPeng also recently listed on the New York Stock exchange (XPEV) and began shipping its compact SUV, the G3, to Norway last month. All very good signs for a company that has only been selling cars for about two years.
We'll continue to monitor XPeng's progress. Let us know what you think of XPeng in the comment section below.