After years of worrying it can’t keep up with Tesla’s software capabilities, Volkswagen may have finally found a solution: buying Huawei’s entire autonomous driving business. The two companies are already in talks about the merge, which would give Volkswagen the ability to be truly competitive in the self-driving vehicle market.
German-based Manager Magazin reported news of the deal this week. Details, including a potential price tag on the deal, are mostly unavailable; neither Volkswagen nor Huawei wanted to comment when contacted by TechCrunch.
Huawei may be best-known for its future-forward smartphone designs and 5G infrastructure technology, but the company’s autonomous driving tech has, in the last few years, grown to be a significant venture all its own. Huawei has taken an aggressive approach to self-driving software thus far, at least from what the company has told the public.
If this deal were to come to fruition, it would give Volkswagen a huge boost in the rapidly developing autonomous driving market.
Cars of the future — Volkswagen has been working overtime to catch up to other major competitors — most notably Tesla, which is still selling its EVs like hotcakes. The company has set a lofty goal for itself: producing 1.5 million EVs by 2025. So far it seems to be on track to actually do that, too, with the powerful ID.4 released last year and the forthcoming ID.5 GTX on the not-too-distant horizon.
A supercharged autonomous driving unit could be just what Volkswagen needs to really bring itself up to Tesla’s level. VW first unveiled a prototype for a fully autonomous car in early 2017 — but we haven’t seen any sign of it since, and that prototype was never meant for consumer use, either.
Tesla has certainly been working much longer on its autonomous driving software, but its Full Self-Driving beta is still incredibly dangerous to passengers and bystanders alike. With no sign of that changing in the near future, VW could absolutely overtake Tesla’s autonomous driving lead with the right people working on it.
Self-driving stagnation — Tesla isn’t the only company struggling to get its self-driving vehicle business off the ground. Autonomous driving as a whole has turned out to be a massive pain in the ass for just about every company trying to incorporate such software into its business model.
The most progress we’ve seen thus far has come in the form of delivery vehicles, which are generally easier to launch because they don’t carry any passengers. Even these vehicle launches are limited in scope, though, in order to minimize risk.
Perhaps VW’s approach here — combining forces with other researchers, rather than striking out entirely on its own — will prove fruitful. Either way, our VWs probably won’t be driving us around for at least a few more years. At least.