Supplier and parts assembler for tech giant Apple, Foxconn is due to debut an electric vehicle platform this year with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) rated at Level 2, and this will be similar to technology used by carmakers such as Tesla and Nissan, reports Nikkei Asia.

This will be followed by a higher level of autonomous driving capability in 2022, a Japanese tech executive involved in the project told Nikkei Asia.

Japanese autonomous driving startup Tier IV is part of the Foxconn project, and its founder and chief technology officer Shinpei Kato said in an interview that the first-generation EV Kit will provide Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems, providing automated support for steering, braking and accelerating for the vehicle’s driver.

Best known for supplying consumer electronics, Foxconn announced the MIH initiative in October 2020 with the aim of “levelling the playing field in the EV industry” through its open EV platform project; MIH will be an independent entity by July 2021, it said. In March, Foxconn said it would launch its first EV Kit in October, according to the report.

While brands such as Cadillac offer systems like Super Cruise that enable hands-free driving, these lack scalability and cannot accommodate additional sensors in the future, said Kato

Level 4 autonomous driving is expected to be integrated into the next version of the EV Kit that is planned for 2022, said Kato, and this is when Tier IV’s own open-source operating system for driverless cars – dubbed Autoware – is expected to be ready, Kato added. Click here for an in-depth look into the levels of autonomous driving, plus the SAE’s refined definitions of driving automation levels.

“MIH will start launching the system which is already commercialised in the market so that it can be sold immediately without legal issues. But like Tesla, computers for the first EV Kit will be designed to enable scaling of the system up to Level 4,” said Kato, referring to the work-in-progress legal framework in various countries pertaining to the safety of Level 4 autonomous driving.

The Nikkei Asia report cites the Cadillac Super Cruise and Nissan ProPilot systems as examples as ADAS technologies that allow hands-off operation, though notes that these are conventional driving assistance systems which lack scalability as they have been developed as standalone systems and are unable to connect additional sensors in the future for more advanced functionality, said Kato.

The MIH project under Foxconn includes almost 1,700 partners, and is designed to lower the barriers to entry into the EV market, or “levelling the playing field” as it stated, aiming to reduce the time and resource required to develop and produce EVs. Companies involved include Arm Holdings, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Texas Instruments and Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL).

In a December release, Foxconn said that Tier IV and other MIH alliance partners would “provide Level 4 and above autonomous driving technology,” where Tier IV is tasked with “defining the functional requirement of software applications,” Foxconn said in the release. The supplier subsequently told Nikkei Asia that it “will only provide specific details on those projects once they are ready for release.”

Tier IV is backed by Japanese insurer Sompo Holdings, and also supplies self-driving vehicle technology for the Toyota e-Palette that will be deployed in the Olympic Village for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Offering an EV package through MIH would allow a wide range of EV parts to integrate with Autoware and thus potentially expand its customer base.

Further afield, Foxconn has been prolific in its preparation for automotive tie-ups; it jointly announced with Stellantis the signing of a non-binding MoU towards the forming of a new joint venture, Mobile Drive, that will focus on infotainment, telematics, cloud service platform development and in-vehicle connectivity offerings.

Separately, Foxconn has also announced its collaboration with California-based Fisker for a jointly produced EV that is planned to enter production in the fourth quarter of 2023. Foxconn has also announced its partnership with Thai energy group PTT for the production of EVs in Thailand.