Chinese internet giant Baidu has stepped up its self-driving car operations over the last few months. After setting up a $1.5 billion fund for self-driving car startups, Baidu has now partnered with Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur, a car-hailing operator, to develop driverless vehicles. The development was spotted by Reuters in China’s official news service Xinhua.
Baidu will provide Shouqi with its Baidu Map service, while Shouqi will help develop high-precision maps for the driverless vehicles. The company will share its software and hardware with Shouqi to help building AI-enabled navigation technology in the new vehicles, the report added. Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur, a subsidiary of China’s state-owned Shouqi group, operates in more than 50 cities. Baidu, meanwhile, has been reshaping its business with AI at its core. ALSO READ: China s Baidu sets up a $1.5 billion fund for self-driving car startups
Much of the attention is also being diverted to its autonomous driving division. Baidu recently signed an agreement with BAIC Group to produce level 4 autonomous vehicles by 2021 . It is also working on the mass production of autonomous buses by next year. This is in addition to Baidu s already operational autonomous driving platform, Apollo, which rolled out for the automobile industry free of cost in April. It has already roped in over 70 car-makers on what it is being touted as the “Android of the auto industry”.
Baidu rolled out an update to Apollo with added features such as cloud simulation, high-definition maps, end-to-end deep learning, and obstacle perception to “provide more comprehensive solutions to developers and ecosystem partners to accelerate the deployment of autonomous driving,” it stated in a NASDAQ filing in September. It proposes to fund over 100 self-driving car projects in three years. ALSO READ: Microsoft to speed up China s self-driving tech with Baidu
That’s an ambitious target given autonomous vehicles have still not emerged in the mainstream. However, Baidu’s taken significant steps to amend that. It has managed to rope in 1,300 companies to download the Apollo source code, and have 100 others apply for it on the website. Baidu has even partnered with Intel to ramp up its autonomous driving sensors. It is also reportedly testing its self-driving car technology in the US where Google’s Waymo is already running driverless vehicles on select roads.