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Exclusive: NIO Founder and Chairman William Li talks autonomous driving: It's not a utopian world

It’s not news anymore that autonomous driving is right around the corner – so near that we wonder even about calling it “the future.” Yet most of us are scratching our heads at the disparity between technological posters and reality. Indeed, Beijing’s vast, unruly streets seem eons away from that streamlined ideal where all cars can drive themselves and as a result talk to each other, ridding the streets of traffic jams, accidents, and road rage. In this thirty-degrees-Celsius weather these hobgoblins continue to reign – totally unfazed by the thousands of new Teslas on the road. So what, in fact, will the coming revolution look like? And specifically, what will it look like in China? William Li, Founder and Chairman of NIO, shared his perspective in an exclusive interview on January 26 in Beijing with our Editor-in-chief.


“First and foremost, automated driving is about saving time for commuters,” Li says, “and about improving safety. It will be like getting a free driver with your car: the immediate reward is that you can do anything you want with the extra two hours on your hands, even sleep. Then the added benefit is that your driver is guaranteed to be a good one, so you will be safe on the road.” Yet none of this says anything about the environment at large: whether car sales will drop or traffic will be solved. “If anything, I think traffic will become worse, initially,” Li says with a touch of humor.


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