Huawei is mounting yet another self-driving and networking push with the newly announced Mobile Automation Engine, a wireless solution meant to enable and accelerate deployment of autonomous vehicles and supporting infrastructure. The technology has three main aspects that complement one another and are all geared toward making driverless cars a reality in as straightforward of a manner as possible. The first one of those and the primary idea behind MAE itself is to make autonomous vehicle deployment scenario-oriented, i.e. devise infrastructure that suits the needs of such means of transportation instead of trying to develop self-driving cars that do what they can with existing technologies.
The second concept revolves around artificial intelligence which Huawei wants to integrate into vehicles and make them as independent of the cloud as possible. While future cars will undoubtedly be interconnected and communicate with both the world wide web and other traffic participants, as well as smart signage and similar elements, Huawei believes it’s crucial to make such vehicles capable of operating on their own, both for consistency and security reasons. MAE has hence been devised with “intelligent engines” in mind and is meant to support machine-learning solutions that make self-driving cars better at navigating traffic the more they’re used, even after their commercialization.
The final aspect of the newly launched platform is layer-based autonomy which improves efficiency, consistency, and user-friendliness, according to the Shenzhen-based company. In practice, MAE is intended to allow for “closed-loop” vehicle autonomy which would make driverless cars relatively straightforward to use, meaning customers could be solely focused on communicating their desired destinations and taking advantage of such means of transportation in other ways, without having to worry about any technical aspect of self-driving technologies. MAE is the creation of Huawei’s Wireless Solution division whose CMO Zhou Yuefeng described the debut of the new service as a major industry milestone which has the potential to play a crucial role in the deployment of next-generation traffic solutions. The platform as a whole has been envisioned as an AI-driven ecosystem which doesn’t just include Huawei’s technologies but also encompasses solutions from network operators; naturally, in addition to the vehicles themselves seeing how the Chinese juggernaut still doesn’t appear to have any plans for actually making its own cars.
Huawei sees MAE as the ultimate answer to the rising complexity of issues surrounding the deployment of self-driving solutions which stems from the fact that the incoming arrival of 5G has automakers and tech companies more divided about radio access platforms than ever. In effect, Huawei wants to invest toward global network automation, allowing the industry to place a larger focus on real-world applications instead of technical challenges, many of which would theoretically be resolved with its proposal. Ultimately, MAE is meant to facilitate rollouts of self-driving systems by enabling highly specialized solutions based on such solutions in a manner that would allow them to consolidate with one another once the technology catches up with the industry’s ambitions.
Background: Huawei started ramping up its investments on the self-driving front over the course of this year, having done so as part of its ongoing efforts to diversify its portfolio and evolve into a(n even) more sustainable business moving forward. The latest pre-MAE announcement in the sector came at this year’s Huawei Connect 2018 whick took place in Shanghai last month, with the company using the conference as an opportunity to reveal a major partnership with Audi meant to lead to level-four autonomous cars. While no specific timeline has been attached to the project, the German vehicle manufacturer has already been experimenting with level-three prototypes since last year, having created them in collaboration with NVIDIA.
The China-based firm has also been involved in various side projects with Porsche, including a publicity stunt that saw one of its most recent Android flagships operate a custom Panamera model on its own. While experts dismissed the demo as unfeasible, Huawei suggested it only organized it to illustrate its continued R&D efforts in a wide variety of technology segments. While the company’s self-driving commitments started only recently, its investments in IoT and 5G have been ongoing for many years now, with both of those sectors being expected to play a major role in the future of transportation.
Impact: The significance of MAE’s debut lies in the fact that Huawei is now clearly communicating it believes consumer-grade self-driving solutions are just around the corner. Due to that perceived state of affairs, the company is pushing for the industry to exit the lab and start discussing actual real-world implementations of these emerging technologies that are safe, digitally secure, and consistent. Its scenario-based model could amount to some commercial applications of self-driving tech in the coming years, though there’s still no way of telling how scalable such an R&D approach would actually be. Huawei unsurprisingly claims it’s an excellent model for the future but the jury is still out on the proposal until the platform’s capabilities are tested in some concrete scenario.
Whether MAE ends up being the driving force behind the change that Huawei is trying to initiate remains to be seen as the success of the platform will almost entirely depend on the industry’s willingness to embrace it. On one hand, that doesn’t appear to be a massive challenge seeing how Huawei remains the world’s largest network equipment maker and hence already has access to many network operators and technology companies that could help it push MAE on a global level. Still, security concerns surrounding the company and its products continue emerging from the West, particularly the United States, making it questionable whether Huawei will manage to organize a wide-scale launch of its solution in its potentially most lucrative markets, i.e. those that will likely be among the first in the world to actually embrace self-driving technologies. Regardless, the launch of MAE marks yet another step in Huawei’s efforts to strengthen its leading position in the telecom equipment market and will at the very least have a significant impact in the Far East where the firm’s solutions aren’t facing as much regulatory scrutiny.