【Auto Shanghai High-level Interview】
On 4 April, the 19th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition, themed ‘embracing change’, opened. At the show, we met with Ning Shuyong, president of the ASU automotive division, who are now ‘switching on to a new lane’.
Ning Shuyong joined ASU in the second half of 2020. Prior to that, he oversaw two business departments – New Energy and Pickup Trucks – at Great Wall, where he was responsible for sales, suppliers, branding, and market communications. At the same time, when Great Wall officially launched the ORA brand in August 2018, he also served as their first general manager, leading ORA to start from scratch.
After the expiration of his tenure at Great Wall, Ning Shuyong chose a new career direction and focused on the central frontier of the ‘four new transformations’ of the automotive industry – smart automotives.
It is reported that ASU is a leading science and technology enterprise in China, mainly focusing on pure laser virtual display and interactive technology. According to Ning Shuyong, the reason why he left the automotive industry and chose to join ASU is to invest his experience in the automotive sector in the new direction of integrating cars and interesting new tech products. Thus, not only leading ASU to continue expanding their automotive business, but also bringing more digital and intelligent experience to cars through ASU's technology.
At present, ASU’s application of pure laser virtual display and interaction technology in automobiles is mainly through the AR smart tailgate technology and the AR-HUD technology. In the words of Ning Shuyong, compared with international companies, ASU is "not inferior" in terms of technology. Even, due to their close relation to the Chinese market, the data and algorithms used in some technologies are more in line with China's actual road conditions.
The following is a transcript of the interview:
Auto Report：The last few times I met with you at auto shows, you were still the head of marketing of certain car brands. Today, your position as president of the automotive division of ASU is like switching to a different lane. Have you changed your mindset since the job change? Why did you choose ASU in the first place?
Ning Shuyong： One of the most direct changes in work is from the so-called ‘Party A’ to ‘Party B’. But one of my reasons for confidence in choosing ASU is that I hope to help them make their automotive business bigger and better. Having worked on vehicle marketing and consumer electronics in the past, now I want to use the company's abilities to see if we can play some new tricks in the car, in the direction of the integrating cars and new tech gadgets.
At present, our team of more than 100 people – of which 80% are engineers – is something that can be called the most stacked optical technology team in China's innovative companies. After I get to ASU, I hope to better integrate my understanding of the car and improve the competitiveness and knowledge spectrum of the company. We hope that in the future, ASU can bring more digital and AR smart experience to automobiles.
Auto Report：It is understood that ASU is one of China's national high-tech enterprises, and a Z-Park frontier technology enterprise. So as a high-tech enterprise, what are the core technical advantages and products of ASU?
Ning Shuyong：China's application in the field of optics is in a stage of rapid development, and just like China's overall world-leading industrial development, as well as the powerful opto-mechanical computing and mechatronics, great progress have also been made in the areas of algorithm and optoelectronics, especially in consumer electronics and automotive industry applications. Our company focuses on optics and optical electronic products, and after years of research and development, I would go as far to say that we are on-par with the DLP technology monopolized by the world's leading Texas Instruments, in terms of the core optical chips and technologies.
Our principle is independent innovation, which makes us choose more advanced laser LCoS technology, and mainly focusing on using it for laser virtual display and interaction, which is now highly recognized in China.
Our core competitiveness revolves around constructing an entire eco-chain about the LCoS technology, from laser image engines to various light field solutions and applications. At the same time, we can also provide customized solutions as a full-industry-chain enterprise.
Auto Report：Specifically, what are the main aspects of practical application of these technologies?
Ning Shuyong：The core technology of ASU has a wide range of applications, but we chose three main areas.
One of them is consumer electronics, for example, a model of tri-colour pure laser 4K TV that we are currently making for a certain brand, is about to go on sale.
The second is rail transport, which is being trialled on the Beijing Winter Olympics line, turning subway windows into display screens.
The third is in the automotive sector. At present, the AR smart tailgate made in cooperation with FAW Bestune has been officially launched. In application, this technology will have a projected logo pattern on the ground when one approaches the back of the car, the colour can be customized, the graphics can be customized, and the tailgate will automatically open once you step on the projection.
In fact, this technology is our innovation and upgrade for the ‘kick’ style tailgate. Currently, this type of easy-open tailgate, which is installed on a lot of models, often cannot operate correctly, it is easy to get your shoes muddy on rainy days, and the door may hit the face when it is opened. We have optimized the technology, specifically with these problems in mind. Through the AR tailgate, we can open the tailgate by simply stepping on the logo 60 cm away from the rear of the car, which gives the consumers a great sense of feeling.
In addition to the AR smart tailgate, our second product is the AR-HUD technology that is now equipped with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Volkswagen ID.4. This technology represents a more advanced trend, the dashboard is eliminated, and the virtual display is combined with road conditions and real-life scenarios.
However, the current mainstream technology used in the area is TFT and DLP, while ASU uses LCoS laser projection technology as output for the PGU, with a larger field of view, a longer virtual image distance, and a smaller size of only about 7.5 litres. We are very confident in that our product in this sector is for sure one of the best in the industry. Moreover, compared with international suppliers, ASU's data and algorithms will be more in line with China's actual road conditions.
In addition, our other products include smart automotive VIP welcome solutions, and in-car virtual smart screens for backseat passengers.
Auto Report：You just mentioned that the AR-HUD technology of ASU is currently leading in the industry. So, what are the other use cases of this laser projection technology, besides being used on the AR-HUD?
Ning Shuyong：We have also extended the application field from the car to the dealership. For example, at present, our laser technology can display digital avatars, using it to make smart sales consultants, as solutions to problems such as insufficient training and shortage of staff in this area.
In addition, in fact, today's commercial vehicles are no less intelligent than passenger vehicles. Currently, for commercial vehicles, we are also developing a driving safety laser warning notification system.
In general, for ASU, we will first do our best in the three ‘lanes’ of passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, and dealerships, and in addition to automobiles, we will continue to increase our efforts in consumer electronics and rail transit.
Auto Report：You just mentioned a lot of new tech products of laser projection technology, technically speaking, these technologies are indeed becoming more and more mature, so from the perspective of regulations, are there still some restrictions?
Ning Shuyong：Now our technologies must strictly comply with the requirements of relevant vehicle regulations. Compared to consumer electronics, cars will have more stringent technical requirements. Our products undergo a variety of rigorous validations and reliability tests, all of which are held to the highest standard.