BYD: Autonomous Vehicles Are "Basically Impossible"

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

BYD, China’s largest electric automaker, isn’t as gung-ho about autonomous vehicles as many other auto industry giants. A company spokesperson recently said that BYD believes self-driving tech that is “fully separated from humans is very, very far away, and basically impossible.” 

China regulates self-driving cars tightly and does not allow their sale to the general public. Some municipalities and regions have allowed limited operation and testing, but the lure of autonomous vehicles isn’t strong in the country.

BYD’s view is that there are too many variables, including regulation and infrastructure, that need to be addressed, and there haven’t been any viable solutions to the challenges. Though it did not directly name Tesla, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and others, the company said "There may be many industries and businesses that invest a lot of money on this tech, and after investing for many years, it will prove it leads nowhere.”

Rather than employing the tech on China’s roads, BYD feels that advanced automation is best as a manufacturing tool. Companies can buy machines that perform the work done by humans, and the cost to break even on the investment only takes a few years. In the meantime, companies don’t need to house, feed, or pay the machines, lowering their operating costs over a human employee.

Autonomous vehicles promise safer roads and fewer fatalities, goals we should all aspire to, but their complexity and cost likely mean that they won’t be viable as a commercial product for a long time. Of course, automating jobs in Chinese factories isn’t as exciting as self-driving cars, but we’re a lot close to that reality than any sort of human-free taxis roaming freely. 

[Image: Robert Way via Shutterstock]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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2 of 22 comments
  • Stuart de Baker Stuart de Baker on Apr 24, 2023

    Automating driving is just another way that Silicon Valley wants to make money off of people. They can charge you (through the roof) for getting you from A to B, and meanwhile, sell info about you which they will glean from whatever you are doing in the car. It's called Surveillance Capitalism.

    Also, just think of how boring it would be to have to just ride in the damn pod. I had my mother figure out, when I was six, how many days it was going to be before I could get my license. (3650ish.) I was six more than 60 years ago. I still love driving.

  • Conundrum Conundrum on Aug 29, 2023

    All BYD is saying is what the usefully intelligent commentariat that used to inhabit TTAC years ago said, time after time. Pure autonomous driving is whistling Dixie.

    Dumb Silicon Valley programmers thought it would be a dawdle for their overarching brainpower. Gee, Waymo even opened an Ann Arbor branch to study the piddling little problem of getting their kart to negioate snowy conditions. That went nowhere. Hell, they can't even get them to run properly in San Francisco where the climate is always temperate. And Tesla auto-wipers are still the worst on the market. Can't even get right what a Kia Rio does easily.

    So what do we have today on the autonomous vehicle front? Dumbf**k "autonomous" Cruise and Waymo taxis clogging up San Francisco by stopping when the internet goes out, or when the programming meets a situation the ace driver "coders" over in SV never thought of - like obeying a traffic cop's orders to get the hell out of the way of fire trucks. Ooh, you say, but now those autonomous taxis are being programmed by AI. Artificial intelligence my foot. Just a way to scam money out of investors who couldn't see a scam coming from two feet away, let alone a mile.

    I don't know what people who understand the English language think autonomous means, but it doesn't mean operating on the "Cloud". It means self-contained. In this case, onboard the vehicle itself. So Cruise isn't autonomous in the first place. I see SF has changed its mind about allowing a Cruise free-for-all there. It drastically cut back the allowable fleet this past weekend. Still more than were allowed a month ago, but a recognition of reality.

    It used to be that losing your shirt financially if you made the wrong business decision was accepted by the gambler going for broke. These days, the big oligopolies squeeze municipalities to let them use public streets on which to practise lab experiments. To hell with the public on foot or other folks. Screw 'em. There used to be at least 44 companies developing autonomous cars -- most have wisely disappeared into the weeds of bad ideas. But the big boys left are bound and determined to get some return on their risky gambles, er "investments", and guess who'll end up paying. The everlovin' public, whose taxes and rights are subsumed by bought pols and "officials" who let the bizniss big boys prey on the minnows, so long as they get their own cut too.

    As for the neocon rant by @Collin above, keep writing there, boyo. A job at Rand Corporation awaits. Meanwhile, have you ever even visited China? Well, have you? Americans are the strangest creatures I've ever met, some of them. So inward-looking, so undereducated, so full of the assumptions that the USA is heaven on earth, ergo everywhere else must thus be worse, that one wonders if they are even moderately sane. If an American car company said autonomous cars were utter BS, there'd be cheers all around. But a Chinese company says so, and out come the chest-beating nationalistic idiots of America.

  • Lou_BC "respondents between 18 and 80 years old" Basically anyone deemed an adult who might be allowed to drive.
  • Lou_BC They will do fine if they come up with some cool sedans ;)
  • Mister They've got their work cut out for them. I live in a large metropolitan city of 1.2+ million people, the is a single Mitsubishi dealer. It's really more like a used-car dealer that sells Mitsubishi on the side. With the remarkably cheesy name of "Johnny Legends".
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh WHAT !?
  • Jeff Matt--I think this is a good move for Mitsubishi to expand their presence with satellite dealers. I had a 85 MItsubishi Mighty Max and my sister had a 83 MItsubishi Starion. MItsubishi needs to add a compact pickup to compete with the Maverick and the Santa Cruz but offer it for less. A smaller more affordable truck will sell. I believe MItsubishi should still offer an inexpensive subcompact like the Mirage it will sell in a slowing car market with high msrps. Yes I know the Mirage is probably going to be canceled but I believe in these times it is a mistake and they should reconsider cancelling the Mirage. Toyota is having problems selling the new redesigned Tacomas and Tundras with the turbo 4s and 6s. Most Tacomas have MSRPs of well over 40k. There is room for MItsubishi to grow their market share with more affordable vehicles. I am not saying Mitsubishi is going to overtake Toyota, Honda, or Nissan but they should take advantage of the more affordable market segment that these companies for the most part have abandoned. MItsubishi doesn't have to be the biggest just increase sales and become more profitable.