I often get asked who is Tesla’s biggest competitor. While most people expect the biggest brands at the top of the sales charts to be the answer, it’s not. It’s certainly not Google, absolutely not Apple, not Ford, GM, Toyota or even a brand you’ve ever seen in your garage.
From this video below, it looks like Chinese automaker NIO, are the closest to Tesla, in the race to autonomous driving. Once full, level 4, Autonomous Vehicles are achieved, there’ll be a clear line that runs through the industry, those cars that can drive themselves and those that can’t.
NIO’s tech stack is enabling them to perform many of the same tasks that Autopilot offers Tesla owners, including lane centering, adaptive cruise control etc.
In a recent video published on YouTube, we see NIO Pilot navigate its way around a curved highway onramp, all hands-free form the driver. The video (and description) offer little more detail but does show that competition is coming to Tesla, it’s just not coming from where you’d expect.
On NIO’s website, they detail the latest update from April 1st (no joke), where their autonomous driving platform added a number of new features.
The latest release features 2 new major features to NIO Pilot, Navigation on Pilot (NOP) and Self-Automatic Parking Assist with Fusion (S-APA with Fusion).
NIO Owners have the choice between the “Select Pack” for RMB 39,000 (A$3,292.76 ex GST) which includes:
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Self-Automatic Parking Assist with Fusion
- Lane Keeping Assist
- Cross Traffic Alert-Rear
- Cross Traffic Alert-Brake
- Dynamic HMI on IC and Automatic Lane Simulation
- Automatic High Beam
Alternatively, you can choose the “Complete Pack” which includes all that, as well as the ability to drive on and off-ramps, pass other vehicles, merge lanes, and navigate planned routes. This costs RMB 39,000 (A$8,561.17 ex GST). This is almost exactly the same price as Tesla’s FSD package that currently costs A$8,500.
It seems NIO Pilot’s is much like Autopilot in that the company creating these autonomous features are committed to ongoing over the air updates to reach full autonomy as soon as possible.
In this video from last August, we see NIO Pilot changing lanes. The driver engages the turn signal, then the car takes it from there, including turning off the indicator after the change is complete.
In terms of the cars, NIO offer the ES8 SUV with a 100kWh battery that’s good for 580km (NEDC range) and features a 0-100km/hr time of 4.9s.
There’s also the ES6 which is a mid-sized SUV that features a 610km range (NEDC), with a slightly better 0-100km/hr time of 4.7s.
Finally, NIOs 3rd EV is the EC6 Coupe SUV, this offers a panoramic glass roof, 615km (NEDC) range, the same 4.7s 0-100km/hr time and that same 100kWh battery pack.
Rather than a single horizontal display, NIO power their EVs with a more conventional instrument cluster in front of the driver that’s a 9.8″ display, as well as a vertically orientated 11.3″ multi-touch center display which both comes as standard.
You can see there’s definitely some parallels between the two companies and I hope that competition ultimately benefits consumers.