Chinese EV giant BYD says self-driving tech is more valuable for factories than cars

BYD, a Chinese battery and electric car company, has said that fully autonomous driving is "basically impossible" and that the technology would be better applied to manufacturing.

Chinese EV giant BYD says self-driving tech is more valuable for factories than cars

BYD’s luxury brand Yangwang sells its first model U8 for more than one million yuan.

Evelyn Cheng

BYD, a Chinese electric and battery car manufacturer, says that fully autonomous driving is "basically unattainable" and that the technology should be applied in manufacturing.

Many electric car companies and tech firms are developing self-driving technologies. Tesla and other electric car brands are increasingly using a form to assist drivers with parking, and other tasks. This is a way of attracting buyers.

BYD has a very different opinion. It is the biggest domestic seller of electric vehicles in China.

Li Yunfei is a BYD spokesperson who spoke in Mandarin. CNBC translated his words.

Li, who spoke to reporters at the Shanghai auto show, said: "When we look at [self-driving technology] from every angle, including human safety, ethics, regulation, and technology, we don't think we understand [the logic]... we believe it is a false proposition."

He said that many businesses and industries invest large sums of money in this [tech], but after many years, it will be clear it is a waste.

In China, established and startup tech companies have been working for years to develop self-driving technologies. Local authorities have given approval to some businesses in the suburbs of Beijing and Shanghai, as well as other cities, to operate self driving taxis.

On Chinese roads, only personal cars are allowed to be fully autonomous.

BYD Li stated that about 2,000,000 people die in traffic accidents every year. In a scenario where the vehicle is fully autonomous, it would be hard to determine who was at fault.

The developers of the technology claim that its features, such as the smooth braking system when it detects a road obstruction, can make driving safer.

BYD offers some models with assisted driving technology. The company announced earlier this month that it would be releasing new shock-absorption technology for its high-end vehicles.

Li stated that despite the increased use of technologies in auto factories, final assembly relies still on human workers.

He stated that each factory worker in China costs around 150,000 yuan per year, when monthly wages are taken into account as well as benefits like a dormitory on site the company must build.

He said that over five years this would cost 600,000 to 700,000. Li stated that as long as a company can purchase automated tech at the same price it is worth more than being used to build a car. He said that a machine does not need to sleep or eat.

The amount of investment and research required to develop robots capable of performing intricate welding and final assembly tasks is not yet known.