This week Huawei has released its first update via OTA for the Aito M5, the SUV that it manufactures under the Aito sub-brand for the Chinese market. The firm sees in the electric car an opportunity to open new business avenues and save the damage that the US veto has done to it. But, in what situation does that same veto leave it?
Technological. In November 2020, Huawei introduced its first automotive electric motor. The simplicity of these engines has encouraged many technology companies to enter a market that was still outside their tentacles. Huawei has not been the only one. Apple, Google or Xiaomi have also been interested, although the paths have been diversifying in this time.
Although the electric car is easier to build, its mass production remains problematic for companies outside this market so far, so Google has decided to dedicate its efforts to the autonomous car. Sony has teamed up with Honda to offer its services in the field of sensors and data management. Huawei finally allied itself with Seres.
Aito M5. After realizing that launching a vehicle completely independently could be a great risk, Seres and Huawei ended up creating a new brand: Aito. “Adding Intelligence to Auto” stands for its acronym. Of course, a whole declaration of intentions.
At the end of 2021, Aito presented his M5. The new SUV is nothing more than a Seres SF5 (in Spain it is sold as DSFK Seres SF5) that has been modified and launched on the market as a new model. Which, moreover, is clearly influenced in its forms by a Porsche Macan. Inside, of course, a 15.6-inch screen for the infotainment system with HarmonyOS.
strategic turn. The US veto caused a radical change in Huawei’s strategy. The company decided that if it wanted to continue competing globally, it had no choice but to create an operating system on a par with iOS and Android. But here it has had a great stumbling block and that is that it has left Huawei years behind Google and Apple.
Both systems have such polished applications and such a wide audience that, first, matching their good performance is a very complicated task and, second, they have a very large user base that is not willing to leave their Google and Apple accounts ( and their synchronization) aside. In fact, the US veto caused a debacle in Chinese sales of their smartphones, where they were outstanding leaders.
Harmony OS. In its quest to diversify, HarmonyOS has already billed itself as a cross-platform operating system with the car in mind. Huawei’s new operating system is committed to a wide flexibility for each device, which should stop presenting the screen of our vehicle as a mere mirror of the mobile phone.
However, this is where your biggest problem lies. And it is that the American and European public is accustomed to Google and Apple maps, their mail services and their integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A fluid communication between devices that, with the current restrictions, could not occur. And, in addition, Huawei is joined by the competition of Android Automotive, Google’s operating system specially designed for cars.
risky bet. Currently, US applications cannot be used on Huawei devices and they need their own alternatives. A real problem in a vehicle, as users have become accustomed to ignoring the interfaces of each manufacturer and mostly opt for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to listen to music, receive messaging notifications or make phone calls.
With HarmonyOS it is to be imagined that none of this could be integrated naturally and that, unless Huawei’s own alternatives are chosen, we will be able to listen to music, but it will have to be played via Bluetooth and selected from the mobile phone. Nor will it be possible to count on the map services of both companies. Small frictions that can be a major stumbling block when buying a new car.
sensors. The other way forward for Huawei is hardware. Providing sensors, such as radars or cameras, is a job that Sony will do with Honda, for example. The market is very juicy for these companies, as vehicles will increasingly have more sensors of this type and, in Europe, they will be required to have them with the entry of all ADAS driving assistance systems.
Aware that the threat is less, the US government has allowed Huawei to buy chips dedicated to the automotive industry. But the company has the same problem in this sector: it is years behind the big manufacturers. Offering the same quality and price as giants like Bosch will cost Huawei a huge investment of time and money.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism