Chinese EV maker NIO (NYSE: NIO) has restarted the development of its own L4 autopilot technology, led by industry veteran Ren Shaoqing, and is currently in the team-building and data acquisition phase, according to LatePost.
Ren, who was Director of R&D at Momenta, a Chinese self-driving startup, joined NIO in August. He now serves as NIO's Assistant Vice President (AVP), reporting directly to NIO founder and CEO William Li Bin, and is in charge of the driverless algorithm team.
Part of the new team is Ren's subordinates at Momenta, the report said.
Almost simultaneously, NIO promoted a new young executive – Zhang Jianyong, director of NIO’s autopilot technology, to AVP, reporting directly to Li, the report said.
Zhang is an early NIO employee, having been in charge of autopilot development at SAIC from 2013-2014. He previously reported to Jamie Carlson, the former NIO autopilot VP in North America, who left the company in June.
The setup of dual AVPs on the autopilot team means that Li hasn't found the right person to lead NIO's autopilot team, LatePost said.
NIO was an early EV maker in China that began automated driving development in 2015, but the automated driving team was most affected by layoffs in North America in 2019 due to financial constraints.
In November 2019, NIO entered into a strategic partnership with Mobileye, an automated driving technology company, to develop L4 automated driving vehicles based on NIO's second-generation vehicle platform.
Both of these actions meant that it was difficult to continue NIO L4 development at that time, but NIO had its good days in 2020 and now has $3.3 billion in cash and cash equivalents to support autopilot technology development.
Earlier this month, Bai Jian, former OPPO hardware director who had also served as general manager of Xiaomi's chip business, joined NIO as vice president of hardware, reporting to William Li Bin.
Prior to joining Xiaomi, Bai worked at OPPO as director of hardware. Bai joined Xiaomi in September 2018 as general manager of its chip and foresight research division.
Bai graduated with a PhD from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, specializing in cryptography and communications engineering.
Earlier reports indicate that NIO is planning to develop its own automated computing chip. NIO has set up a separate hardware team, internally called "Smart HW (Hardware)", to push forward the development of its own chip.