CEO said the company has been preparing for the transition for nearly a year, and that its goals for XNGP remain unchanged.

(File photo of Wu Xinzhou, the outgoing head of autonomous driving at Xpeng. Credit: Xpeng)

Xpeng (NYSE: XPEV) has confirmed that the head of the company's autonomous driving business is leaving, after rumors earlier today caused its Hong Kong-traded stock to plummet.

Xpeng's vice president of autonomous driving, Wu Xinzhou, has tendered his resignation to the company for personal and family reasons, and the company's senior director of the autonomous driving team, Li Liyun, will assume Wu's responsibility, the Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker said in a statement today.

Li was the leader of the XNGP (Navigation Guided Pilot) program team and has been preparing for the transition for a long time, Xpeng's statement said.

For family and multiple reasons, Wu said late last year that he was returning to the US, He Xiaopeng, Xpeng's chairman and CEO, said in a Weibo post today, adding that Xpeng worked with him over the past 10 months to define a completely new working model.

Xpeng has done a lot of advance and proactive optimization in terms of structure and organization, and also chose Li to take over the autonomous driving team early on, Mr. He said.

Because Xpeng has been preparing for almost a year, the transition of the team and the business will be smooth, he said.

"In the future, I will still personally lead our autonomous driving and R&D teams," Mr. He said.

Xpeng will make more AI-oriented organizational changes next, and will reconfigure its team to integrate autonomous driving, cockpits, machine brains, EEA, and several innovation projects, into a stronger smart technologies team, Mr. He said, adding that the company will also add vehicle intelligence planning and operations teams.

"I will personally lead this large team, and I believe that AI and its operational experience will disrupt the current automotive system," he said.

Xpeng's goals on XNGP remain unchanged, still expecting the feature to cover 50 cities in China within the year, and will fully support its strategic partner Volkswagen, he said.

Mr. He thanked Wu for his contributions to Xpeng, saying he will become the highest-ranking Chinese executive at a globally renowned company and will continue to work deeply with Xpeng on a number of fronts, including chips.

(He Xiaopeng (right) in a photo he shared with Wu Xinzhou on Weibo.)

Mr. He did not mention the name of the company Wu will be joining, but earlier today, tech media outlet 36kr reported that Wu will be joining Nvidia, possibly as a global senior vice president and reporting to Jensen Huang, co-founder and CEO of the US chip giant.

Wu joined Xpeng in March 2019 and has been a key contributor in helping the EV maker get a solid smart driving label.

Wu received his undergraduate degree from China's top-ranked Tsinghua University, followed by a master's degree and PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Prior to joining Xpeng, he spent more than 10 years at Qualcomm, focusing on autonomous driving solutions.

At Xpeng, Wu led the company's autonomous driving technology path planning and program execution, and built the core team and structure of smart driving.

Under his leadership, Xpeng built highway NGP functionality based on the Nvidia Xavier chip with only 30 TOPS of computing power.

In 2021, Wu led his team to start reconstructing Xpeng's perception algorithm module, introducing transformer and BEV (Bird's Eye View) perception technology.

On March 31 of this year, Xpeng opened up the first phase capabilities of XNGP to the G9 and P7i, allowing the two models to support City NGP in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, three cities with high-precision map coverage.

The XNGP assisted driving system is Xpeng's new generation of intelligent driving system and is the ultimate product form of assisted driving before full self-driving is realized, the company previously said.

The full form of the XNGP system will not rely on high-precision maps and will enable an assisted driving experience from the starting parking space to the ending parking space.

The second phase of XNGP, which Xpeng will launch in the second half of 2023, will see full lane change, overtaking and left/right turn functionality extended to major Chinese cities where high-precision maps are not available, while full-scenario ADAS is scheduled to launch in 2024.

The XNGP system will enable full-scene ADAS from start to stop when the full rollout is completed in 2024, the company said.

On June 15, Xpeng's City NGP feature was opened to users participating in a public test in Beijing, making it the first EV maker to do so in China.

Xpeng shares plunge in HK as rumors swirl that its head of autonomous driving to depart