Saturday, April 7, 2018

China gives its technology giant Baidu permission to begin test its self-driving vehicles on some Beijing roads

The Chinese search engine and technology company Baidu has gained approval from the Chinese government to begin testing its self-driving cars in a sign of China's strong support for the industry.
The approval comes in spite of the fact that an Uber autonomous vehicle with a back up driver killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. However, it may be that Uber is not to blame as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.
Baidu's certificate allows it to test vehicles on 33 roads about 105 kilometers or 65 miles in length altogether. The tests will be in less-populated suburbs of the city. Baidu is regarded as a leader in developing autonomous cars in China.
Baidu
Baidu Inc is a Chinese multinational technology company. It specializes in Internet-related services and products, but also Artificial Intelligence and is a leader in the development of autonomous vehicles. The firm was established back in January of 2000 by Robin Li and Eric Xu.
Baidu is headquartered at the Baidu campus in Beijing. Baidu has the second largest search engine in the world with a 76.05 market share in China. In October of 2017 Baidu's market cap was US $94.6 billion. In 2007 it became the first Chinese company to be included in the NASDAQ 100 index.
Project Apollo
Project Apollo is Baidu's new autonomous vehicle platform. The platform is designed to help car manufacturers produce self-driving cars more quickly. The platform consists of both hardware and software. It will provide BaIdu partners with the tech and open-source code needed that will aid vehicles perceive obstacles, plan routes and navigate around roads.
Baidu says it will first open Project Apollo for cars in restricted environments beginning this July. It will offer it for driving in simple urban road conditions later in the year. This is part of a plan to see a gradual rollout of self-driving features that should see fully autonomous vehicles on Chinese highways and regular roads by 2020.
Other Chinese companies are working on autonomous cars
Earlier in March China also issued licences to the SAIC Motor Company based in Shanghai and startup NIO to begin testing autonomous vehicles. China's own ride-hailing giant, Didi Chuxing, is also working on its own autonomous vehicles.
China is still behind the US in terms of testing autonomous vehicles on public roads but Baidu may help them catch up and make up for lost ground. Baidu CEO Robin Li got in trouble last year when he tested a company self-driving car at a conference in defiance of China's rules outlawing the tests. Now it is legal but only on approved roads.


Previously published in the Digital Journal

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