Baidu Leading the Way for Autonomous Driving in China

By Ryan Gandolfo, November 5, 2018

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On October 31, Baidu announced that they will be collaborating with Ford Motor Company on a two-year project testing self-driving cars on Beijing’s extensive roadways.

Just two days later, Volkswagen joined the Chinese tech company’s ever-growing list of partners who are focused on the evolution of automobile travel.

It’s been a busy week for Robin Li and the firm's autonomous driving platform, Apollo.

The Apollo consortium, an initiative spearheaded by Baidu and over 130 global partners, is aiming to speed up the development of self-driving cars by utilizing an open-source platform, which allows anyone to contribute to the project (granted they know what they’re doing).

Baidu’s Apollo system functions as your virtual driver, much like Tesla and Waymo’s car software, taking the human out of the equation and incorporating machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide a smooth experience.

Over the last year, Baidu's Apollo software has rapidly improved its functionality and real-life application. Image via Github

On Apollo’s official website, the platform showcases multiple components designed to optimize the driving experience from car safety and route changes to protection against network security breaches.

The self-driving coalition boasts the inclusion of top players in multiple industries, ranging from car makers to tech firms and universities, with industry leaders like Daimler and Nvidia in the mix. The prospect of mass-producing electric autonomous cars in Asia’s biggest market has successfully triggered the interest of car brands around the world.

Image via @Baidu/Weibo

A statement by Sherif Marakby, president and CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, highlighted the importance of working with Baidu to grow their company and improve driving conditions: “Working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China to offer innovative solutions that improve safety, convenience and the overall mobility experience. This project marks a new milestone in the partnership between Ford and Baidu, and supports Ford’s vision to design smart vehicles that transform how we get around.”

Baidu is bringing car manufacturers like Ford into China’s autonomous driving market, offering them the tech company’s “leading-edge technological know-how and understanding of China,” according to Zhenyu Li, Vice President and General Manager of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group.

Baidu’s autonomous vehicle initiative is seen as a critical component of the company’s future, which has focused more and more resources on becoming a leader in artificial intelligence. Last year, the Chinese government called upon Baidu to lead AI innovation for self-driving cars in China. According to South China Morning Post, Baidu’s adopted strategy falls right in line with the country’s economic policy to develop into a global AI powerhouse.

Baidu has been working to deliver on those lofty goals. Last Thursday, the company opened a new concept AI park in Haiding District. The park featured an autonomous bus, driving people to various stops within the park's confines. According to Baidu, the park is free to check out and explore.

[Cover image via @Baidu/Weibo]

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