Being first to market is a big deal for the Chinese EV startup

Today at the Guangzhou Motor Show, Xpeng Motors (NYSE: XPEV), announced its next-generation autonomous driving architecture will include Lidar technology. The company also introduced a limited-edition version of the P7 sports sedan with butterfly doors, similar to the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid. This limited-edition will only be available for the Chinese market.

Xpeng announced it has significantly upgraded its autonomous driving software and hardware systems for the 2021 production models making Xpeng the first car manufacturer in the world to integrate Lidar technology into its production electric vehicles. 

The company tells us that the lidar systems will improve its next-generation autonomous driving architecture, specifically by enhancing the vehicle’s high-precision object recognition performance. 

Xpeng P7

“Introducing Lidar technology into production vehicles is a breakthrough in popularizing autonomous driving, and an endorsement of our in-house R&D process. Our customers will benefit from this premium advanced technology, which makes autonomous driving more driver-friendly, safe and effective,” said He Xiaopeng, Chairman & CEO of Xpeng.

The new hardware architecture is a combination of high-definition (HD) cameras, millimeter-wave radars, ultrasonic sensors, Lidar, high-precision positioning and mapping systems, all powered by a high-performance computing platform.

Xpeng's new ADAS systems will be equipped with a total of 32 sensors. Xpeng claims that the system provides the strongest hardware redundancy available today, effectively avoiding single-system failure to deliver enhanced safety protection. It will also cover more usage scenarios, effectively enabling Xpeng vehicles to perform low-speed Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP) functions for city driving.

Gallery: Xpeng P7

This next-generation autonomous driving architecture will deliver major enhancements, including: 

Enhanced integrated control unit 

The XPU autonomous driving intelligent control unit integrates vehicle control and parking functions, making decision-making and execution more efficient. At the same time, by streamlining the number of controllers and wiring harnesses, the weight of the system is reduced. 

Improved high-precision positioning

The real-time kinematic (RTK) terminal is upgraded from 4G to 5G, supporting precise positioning with high-precision maps for high-speed roads as well as urban roads. A new positioning scheme (IMU+GNSS+RTK (5G) with high-precision maps for both highways and city roads is adopted to achieve centimeter-level accuracy. With pinpoint positioning, latency reduced to milliseconds, and a driving scenario coverage rate of over 97.5%, the scheme provides high robustness, covering a wide range of terrain, high-rise buildings, and underground parking-lot occlusion scenarios.

Enhanced perception fusion 

The adoption of Lidar technology will significantly improve the accuracy of horizontal and vertical position identification, and spatial resolution (super high resolution <0.1°), while offering a perception capability that is unaffected by ambient light. Through the fusion of vision + millimeter-wave radar + ultrasonic sensor + Lidar, the system’s performance in target detection and measurement resolution, is significantly improved even in scenarios without sufficient lighting, delivering near-perfect perception performance.

Computing power to increase

The high-performance computing platform will also be significantly upgraded from 30 TOPS (tera operations per second) to over 200 TOPS in the future, delivering a nearly tenfold increase in computing power from ten trillion times per second to several hundred trillion times per second. The system is designed with the capacity to further increase computing power, supporting the implementation of even higher-level autonomous driving functions.

We recently had the honor of being the very first news outlet in North America to drive the Xpeng P7 in the US. We were impressed with the performance and value the long-range sports sedan has to offer. 

Xpeng tells us that this next-generation autonomous driving architecture will achieve an advanced level of navigation-guided autonomous driving, with a wide coverage of different road conditions, low manual takeover rates, and longer continuous autonomous driving times. The new system also covers multiple weather conditions and situations for city and highway driving, including urban congestion, expressways, underground parking lots, toll gates, tunnels, and night driving conditions.

We think it's a significant step forward for Xpeng, as well as for autonomous driving technology. While not everyone is convinced that Lidar is necessary for fully autonomous cars, others do believe that it's the safest path and only time will tell which approach proves best. 

Tesla, for instance, doesn't believe lidar technology is necessary for autonomous driving, while companies like Lucid Motors and Xpeng do. We'd like to know what you think - let us know in the comment section below.