Huawei will develop an autonomous technology for smart cars in cooperation with Audi and the models will be exclusive for China. The partnership focuses on the so-called fourth-level technology, which is defined as a “car capable of moving perfectly from start to stop in a particular area”.

This is another transaction in a whole series of such partnerships between automotive and technology companies, while both industries are moving towards to the end goal: the creation of fully autonomous vehicles.

The two companies did not reveal the terms of the transaction and the message was modest from its specificity.

Huawei has already demonstrated an Audi Q7 equipped with the Chinese Mobile Data Center (MDC). It includes several chips with artificial intelligence, central processor, cameras and radar and is located on the roof of the car.

Audi reports that the company from now on is testing in cooperation with Huawei in China and plans to launch there an autonomous car development centre in 2019. The car manufacturer has set up a third-level system of autonomy called Traffic Jam Pilot, which allows drivers to remove their hands and eyes from the road, while in most situations the vehicle is dealing with all driving. The parent company of Audi, Volkswagen, develops technology with Level 4 and 5 (full autonomy without restrictions) together with the young company Aurora, founded by the former Head of Google’s self-driving car programme.

For years, China has forced foreign auto producers to set up joint companies with local firms to produce cars in the country. But earlier this year, the Chinese government announced its plan to alleviate these requirements and as a result automotive business is now changing. Already in the summer, Tesla announced that they will open a factory in Shanghai, while BMW has increased its share in the Brilliance Auto Group, which is their partner in China.

However, when it comes to autonomous cars, Beijing still prefers to have a leading role. The authorities strictly control the permits required for testing of self-driving cars, as well as the number of licences which allow foreign companies to draw up digital maps on the roads in the country. These maps are a key element of the autonomous car puzzle, but also delicate information that Beijing prefers to keep for itself.

Therefore, large foreign companies such as Daimler, Ford and BMW are forced to partner with the Chinese online colossus Baidu, which is one of the few companies owning Internet and automotive business at the same time.

One of the reasons often mentioned for these stringent control measures is that the Chinese Government perceives the freer market as a risk to its national security. In other words, Beijing does not want foreign companies to have detailed maps of the Chinese roads, as well as other data.

This prudence reflects the emergence of such concerns in the West for companies such as Huawei and ZTE. Earlier this year, the US essentially banned public officials and subcontractors from using phones or components of these brands.