NIO North America VP: “Automation is moving more towards AI-Driven, artificial intelligence”

Written by Cláudio Afonso |

On April 2nd, Ganesh Iyer, Chief Information Officer of NIO, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Nio’s North American office was invited to talk at NIO’s SEEDs Talks, in China. Iyer, talked about the development and evolution trend of the automotive industry and its characteristics. Before joining NIO, Iyer started working for Tesla in 2012, by the time the American EV maker launched its first electric vehicle.

Who is Ganesh V. Iyer?

Ganesh graduated from the engineering college of a well-known university in India, then went to work in London for 3 years, and then went to the United States in 1994 to develop. Since then, he has been engaged in the high-tech industry and has 35 years of work experience in the fields of telecommunications, networking, software, manufacturing, and automobiles.

Ten years ago, Ganesh joined Tesla and together with Elon Musk witnessed the delivery of Tesla’s first electric car in 2012. After joining NIO, he once again witnessed the high degree of innovation and development of the automotive industry.
From a junior engineer to a global CIO of NIO, let’s see how Ganesh combines his own experience to share with us the ups and downs of the automotive industry over the past few decades and where it will go in the future.

What is the key to the next generation of mobility, and what does the concept of user design mean in the transformation of the automotive industry?

Development and innovation are the common destiny of all industries

Development and innovation are the common destiny of all industries. Looking back on the past few decades, it is clear that industries such as computing, mobile phones, software, and automobiles have undergone earth-shaking changes. In the era of large-scale models from 1940 to 1975, IBM and DEC were the dominant industries, and with the advent of technologies such as client servers and infrastructure, microprocessor companies like Intel and companies like Microsoft and Cisco began to emerge; and in the 20 years from 1975 to 1995, companies such as Google, Amazon, and Tencent led the innovation in the era of cloud computing. Nowadays, we are in a world of cognitive computing, and few people mention IBM’s mainframe.

The mobile phone industry has the same development trend. In the past, we were familiar with Motorola and Nokia. Later, Apple’s iOS system and Google’s Android system entered people’s horizons, subverting the entire industry in one fell swoop. It is now the world of smart phones, and innovation continues. Also undergoing major changes is the software industry. The innovation in the software industry is mainly driven by modularity, from the UNIX operating system in the early 1970s to Linux and open source code, followed by network interfaces, open interfaces, communication between platforms, and now everything is a service. The entire industry has transitioned towards a service model.

Back to the automotive industry that Ganesh is currently engaged in, from the beginning of the last century to 1970 or 1975 was the era of internal combustion engines. The leaders were Ford, General Motors and many European car companies; from 1970 to about 2000, the mechatronics model was opened, and even battery cars have many innovations; to this day, the entire industry is moving towards electronic and electrified powertrain transformation, that is, a comprehensive digital transformation, which direction will it develop next?

Historical experience tells us that no industry is stable and unchanging. If you don’t innovate and change yourself, you will be changed. Don’t stop at just doing the right thing, and have the courage to meet the challenges of the times.
We are beginning to understand the limits of automation, and automation technology is also developing in the direction of artificial intelligence. The Internet of Things (IOT) that we are familiar with has also changed from the Internet of Everything to the intelligence of everything, and now we have transitioned to the automation of everything, namely AOT.
Taking conversational artificial intelligence as an example, first of all, the application of artificial intelligence assistants has become more and more extensive. They are found in household equipment, electrical appliances, and automobiles, and voice has become a digital interactive interface in the practical sense; secondly, we have become more accustomed to using voice commands to obtain information, which is convenient and fast. The same is true for mobile communications, which also has higher requirements for broadband and mobile networks. From 2G, 3G to the present 5G, the development of the network has provided people with a richer immersive experience.

User-centered opening up innovation

The transformation of an industry is reflected in many aspects. It may be the improvement of product functions. For example, for traditional car companies and internal combustion engine engineers, their main innovations revolve around automobiles; it may also be to propose a new concept from scratch, providing the entire industry with a new possibility, such as electric powertrain and autonomous driving.
Of course, this alone is not enough to subvert traditional car companies. Automated driving is only a function of electric vehicles, and the degree of innovation is not enough. Nowadays, a new generation of companies like NIO have focused their innovation on autonomous driving, using this as a starting point to develop electric power assemblies that can still run after failure. Autonomous driving also makes it possible for immersive experiences to be on the next-generation automotive platform.
Ganesh believes that when the car truly realizes autonomous driving, it will become a business, content and productivity platform, providing users with an all-inclusive and immersive experience. This is the future direction of change in the automotive industry, and it is also the way forward for NIO.
It is easy to say and difficult to do. In order to achieve this goal, we must always adhere to the user-centered design of new products and services. This kind of design thinking means that even after many years, it will still be able to flexibly adapt to new practical standards.

An intelligent connected electric vehicle equipped with an innovative electric powertrain and autonomous driving capabilities, Ganesh calls it digital car 3.0. If we want to build such a car like a supercomputer, we should pay attention to the four basic areas of networking, autonomous driving, intelligence, and electric power. The first is powerful and reliable autonomous driving, which is the core requirement and consists of electric powertrain, chassis, vehicle network, and advanced driver assistance system (ADAS); the second is the digital living space experience, such as Nio’s car NOMI, which is driven by situational intelligence and brings users an experience that transcends context; then there is the ease of use of the entire digital canvas, and every detail must be in line with the user experience; and finally, safety is a top priority at all basic levels.

NIO announced on Monday that held the the ceremony for the completion of NIO’s Vehicle Pilot Center on March 16 with the first vehicle from NeoPark in Hefei rolling off the production line. NeoPark is a hub for hundreds of key supporting enterprises with an annual production capacity of 1 million vehicles and 100 GWh battery. NeoPark is expected to realize a gross yearly output of RMB 500 billion ($78 Billion USD).

Written by Cláudio Afonso |