Beijing-based Zhiche Auto, founded by Shen at the end of 2014 with a team of 100 people, plans to apply the innovation model of the smartphone to the country’s auto industry.
The start-up will complete its second round of financing in September, raising several hundred million yuan to develop a smart car equipped an independently-developed intelligent driving and safety system as well as various internet-enabled technologies.
The first batch of the battery-powered “Jidian” SUVs, using an electric motor developed by Kyoto-based Green Lord Motors – known as the “Tesla of Japan” – is expected to hit the mainland Chinese market by the end of 2017.
Smart cars generally refer to vehicles equipped with advanced sensors that exchange information between driver, the car and the road.
Zhiche’s Jidian SUV will target Chinese internet users born after 1985, living in China’s first-and-second-tier cities, who are attracted by affordable domestic Chinese brands of smart devices, instead of more expensive foreign brands.
Jidian is designed to be an open and smart platform that would include software and apps developed by third-party developers offering updated and better functions and experiences for drivers. Such a platform, with its increasing number of new apps, could make Jidian stand out from other vehicles, Shen said.
Zhiche has teamed up with Li Deyi, and academic from the Chinese Academy of Engineering and one of China’s most renowned unmanned vehicle experts, to develop Jidian’s intelligent driving system could see Jidian achieve limited self-driving automation by 2018.
The Zhiche R&D team conducts regular brainstorming sessions to come up with new internet features to incorporate into the car to make it smarter and more attractive to young Chinese mobile internet users.