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Huawei working with European carmakers to launch self-driving technology in two years

Matthew Field
Audi's experimental Aicon electric autonomous car at an event in China last year - Bloomberg

Chinese telecoms firms Huawei says it will launch self-driving cars as early as 2021 in partnership with several European, Japanese and Chinese car manufacturers. 

Dang Wenshuan, the company's strategy chief, told the Financial Times that Huawei is developing self-driving AI software with Audi, GAC Toyota Motor, and Chinese manufacturers Beijing New Energy Automobile and Changan Automobile.

“From my understanding, we are working together to have a car that will be shipped in the year 2021 or 2022 using these [autonomous driving] components,” Mr Dang said. “This will be in China, but not only in China . . . it will also be in Europe.”

Huawei, which has been subject to blacklisting from Washington since May barring US companies from selling it components, is hoping to diversify its AI products as pressure on its telecoms operations grows.

The US is continuing to press governments across the world to drop Huawei from 5G network development plans, saying the company could be used by Beijing for espionage. Huawei denies the charge.

In a latest blow, it was reported that Huawei had been forced to delay the release of its latest Windows laptop due to restrictions on buying US components.

Last year, Audi signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei to develop smart car technology using new wireless connection standards, which the companies said would look at “intelligent driving and the digitalisation of services in the vehicle environment”.

Audi has said it plans to spend £12.5bn on self-driving and electric cars over the next five years.

In November, Huawei announced it was developing a Mobile Automation Engine, designed to enable automonous car technologies using cellular networks.

The company partnered with Jaguar Land Rover and Vodafone to show off a vehicle communication system for road safety alerts, such as lane changing or speed limit alterations.

Huawei's work comes as technology companies race to develop self-driving technology. US giants like Google's Waymo, Uber and even Apple have all launched self-driving car projects, as have most carmakers from Ford to Tesla.

The company said much of the value of a self-driving car would be in its information and communication technology, giving firms like Huawei the opportunity to take a major slice of the market.