Li Auto’s AI Algorithms Team Leader to Leave Post

Simon Wang, the head of AI algorithms for intelligent driving and the chief scientist for AI at Li Auto, will leave his job in the near future. Wang is mainly responsible for the research and development of AI algorithms for applications such as intelligent driving perception and maps, 36Kr reported on October 25.

After leaving the firm at the end of the month, Wang may start a new business. Some insiders said that Li Auto is looking for an algorithms vice president to take over Wang’s work. So far, the firm has denied the reports, and Wang himself has declined to issue an official comment.

Wang graduated from Stanford University with a major in computer science and joined Li Auto in December 2020. At that time, the Chinese electric vehicle maker was researching algorithms. During his tenure, he managed hundreds of staff members within the perception algorithms team. Wang had been a senior expert for Huawei’s automotive business unit and chief AI architect of Kuandeng Technology, a high-precision map platform provider.

According to a source, Wang’s departure may be related to too much internal R&D pressure. The size of Li Auto‘s automated driving team is half that of XPeng, and the expansion pace of firm CEO Li Xiang has been relatively conservative. Li Auto and NIO‘s automated driving teams have about 700 and 1,000 people respectively. Meanwhile, there are about 1,500 R&D and data personnel on XPeng‘s intelligent driving team.

Li Auto was founded in 2015, but it didn’t start developing an automated driving business until the end of 2020 when several accidents happened involving its Li ONE model, which was still adopting the supplier’s assisted driving scheme. The supplier’s long system iteration time and software upgrade price was unacceptable to Li Auto, so it finally made up its mind to develop its own intelligent driving system.

At that time, there were only 60 people on Li Auto‘s intelligent driving team, and Wang joined as the head of algorithms R&D. In contrast, XPeng had 300 automated driving staff in 2020, and opened the high-speed pilot assisted driving function to users in January 2021.

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When the new L9 model went on sale in June 2022, Li Auto launched its self-developed intelligent driving system, AD Max. According to Li Xiang, the perception, decision-making, planning and operating systems have all been developed by Li Auto itself. The system is not only equipped with laser radar and high-level intelligent driving functions, but it has also opened the self-developed automatic emergency braking source code to the industry.

Li Auto is now doing more to make up for the shortcomings of its intelligent driving division, while in the higher-level technical field, it has always been conservative. Taking L4 automated driving as an example, XPeng and NIO have started to explore robotaxi businesses, but Li Auto has not invested widely in the field.