Huawei applies for license to make high-precision digital maps, heralds a move further into self-driving sector

By Shen Weiduo Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/9 17:17:06

Huawei, the Chinese technology giant caught amid the ongoing China-US trade war, has applied for a license to make high-precision digital maps, a move that an industry analyst said could drive up the company's efforts to develop and launch autonomous driving solutions and expand its business sphere.

According to a statement on the official website of China's Ministry of Natural Resources, the application from Beijing Huawei Digital Technologies Co, a subsidiary of Huawei, together with six other companies, was approved and is in its publication period from July 5 to Thursday. 

Huawei will officially be allowed to enter the high-precision digital mapping industry from that point.

Huawei said it "had not heard about the matter" when contacted by the Global Times on Tuesday.

Analysts said that high-precision digital maps are a significant and necessary step for self-driving technology, but they may stay in the research and development period for years before the technology can finally be commercialized.

"The application is obviously a major step for Huawei's ambition to explore the autonomous driving sector. In other words, Huawei wants to make itself an integrator that could make both hardware and software in the industry," Feng Shiming, a car analyst at Shanghai-based Menutor Consulting, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Huawei has repeatedly stated that it would not make cars. While focusing on information and communications technology, Huawei aims to enable original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of cars to build smarter vehicles to facilitate evolutionary changes in the auto industry, Huawei Rotating Chairman Eric Xu said in April.

Xu said that the products Huawei will offer to automotive OEMs include mobile data centers, cloud services for autonomous driving, 4G/5G in-vehicle communication modules, and Huawei HiCar people-car-home connectivity solutions for all scenarios.

"Without making cars, if the company could successfully acquire the core technologies of all the software and hardware needed by self-driving, it would have more of a say in the smart car industry chain, even more so than those firms who made the cars themselves," Feng said. "By then, Huawei's technology prowess in the sector would be like the combination of Intel and Microsoft's influence on the global computer industry chain."

With its self-developed HongMeng operating system and its peculiar strength in 5G, together with China's large and mature market, Huawei has both the strength and advantage to achieve that goal, Feng noted.

"Huawei's artificial intelligence chip Balong 5000 is also capable of supporting the company to realize its ambitions in the auto industry," an industry insider told the Global Times previously.

Huawei has been actively laying out its car businesses over the past year. It said that it may launch self-driving vehicles as early as 2021, according to a report from the Financial Times, citing a Huawei representative.

The telecommunications giant has partnered with car manufacturers including the German carmaker Audi, GAC Toyota, Beijing New Energy Automobile and Changan Automobile to supply them with artificial intelligence technology, according to the report.


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