China's leading electric car maker BYD Co Ltd announced on Wednesday it will allow international app developers to access data and controls for its vehicles, encouraging them to produce third-party apps for its newly launched online driving ecosystem.
"We are the first (car) brand to open all sensors and controls," said Wang Chuanfu, chairman and president of BYD. "It is also the first step in the process of establishing a fully open vehicle ecosystem."
Control rights for opening vehicles' doors and windows, as well as technologies such as facial recognition will all have a role to play in the carmaker's new app ecosystem, according to Wang. The approach is similar to how the internet has changed the whole structure of mobile phone competition and people's daily lives, he said.
"The automobile industry will have entered an intelligent era by 2035," he said.
The company held its BYD Worldwide Developer Conference in Shenzhen on Wednesday, the first of its kind in the industry. It launched its car app platform D++ at the event.
Using the platform, app developers can gain access to 66 control rights, 341 sensors and extensive vehicle data relating to BYD's Qin Pro model, which is expected to hit the market on Sept 20.
The platform has already attracted dozens of partners, including China's internet giant Baidu with its self-driving Apollo system, online security company 3500 Security Technology Inc, and artificial intelligence specialist Horizon Robotics Inc.
Baidu President Zhang Yaqin announced at the conference that the company and BYD plan to jointly mass produce Level 3 self-driving vehicles within three years. According to SAE International, Level 3 automated driving means the self-driving system can take control in certain situations, such as on freeways.
BYD's announcement comes as automakers have been rushing to develop intelligent products. Domestic carmakers BAIC Motor Corp Ltd and GAC Motor Co Ltd have both promised mass production of Level 3 self-driving cars by 2019. Tesla Inc and Audi AG have already showcased their Level 3 vehicles.
However, Wang Liusheng, chief automobile industry analyst at CSM Securities, said the realization of fully automated driving requires the official roll out of detailed industry regulations and standards.
"What's most important is safety. The prerequisite for upgrading to each level should be the guarantee of driving safety," he said. "But, so far more efforts are still required."
To address the issue, BYD and 3500 signed a strategic cooperation agreement on Wednesday to ensure safety in the new automated driving ecosystem.