Visiting NIO in Hangzhou

Last week NIO invited me to Hangzhou, China, to speak with NIO owners and team members about self-driving cars. It was awesome!

NIO is one of China’s most advanced electric car companies. The NIO ES8 SUV and EP9 race cars are already on the market. Next summer the ES6 SUV will launch in China with a breath-taking 500km (300mi) of range.

NIO owners have access to special facilities, or NIO Houses, throughout China. The NIO House at which I spoke in Hangzhou is located right on West Lake, one of China’s most beautiful areas.

What really impressed me were the quality of the questions from the audience of NIO owners and employees. People knew all about the different types of sensors on self-driving cars, but they wanted to know about redunancy, and how different car manufacturers were preparing for failure scenarios. They also wanted to learn about how US manufacturers were thinking about Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy. What are the advantages and disadvantages of high-precision GPS, specifically in China? This is a group of people who know their stuff!

Everyone was unfailingly polite and generous, and every visit to China is a reminder of how fast this country moves. Chinese companies have only recently begun working on autonomous vehicles in earnest, having ceded US companies a 5–10 year headstart. But it’s easier to move fast when somebody else has already blazed a path, and Chinese companies like NIO are making tremendous progress.

Check out this video the self-driving NIO EP9 — the world’s fastest autonomous vehicle!

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