Baidu Inc. is the Internet giant, a leader amongst the Chinese search engines. It is the Chinese counterpart to Google providing Internet pages, pictures, and music search including a highly detailed map of China.
A Baidu self-driving car project started in 2013 when the company launched the Institute of Deep Learning. This research facility is developing artificial intelligence and high-precision navigational maps which, in their turn, contribute a lot to autonomous vehicles technology development. Amongst the most outstanding Institute’s achievements is the ‘Baidu Brain’, a challenging project to create a human brain model with a capability of self-learning. AI development has been carried out since 2011.
Baidu vehicles are equipped with a standard hardware set for self-driving: LIDAR, radar, cameras, and satellite navigation.
From September 2014 to November 2016, Baidu and BMW were partners in the driverless cars development and construction. The technologies were tested using the BMW cars on the roads of China. The first test was carried out in December 2015 when the 3rd series BMW cars drove for about 19 miles on the roads of Beijing. The partnership was seized due to different visions of the self-driving future and the companies’ unequal development.
On August 16, 2016, Baidu and Ford made co-investments of $150 million in Velodyne, a leading company in LIDAR sensors development. The sensors are actually the driverless cars’ ‘eyes’ which allow creating a high-definition 3D map of the environment.
On August 31, 2016, the internet giant receives approval from the Californian DMV to test their cars on the roads of San Francisco. Before that, in April, the company opened its office in the Silicon Valley employing 100 engineers and researchers.
At the same time, at the World Conference in Beijing, NVIDIA and Baidu announced their partnership aiming to use artificial intelligence for a cloud-to-car platform creation. The platform will allow cars to be connected to a constantly updated 3D map stored in the cloud. The joint work of these corporations over autonomous cars was quite expected since they had long been working together on AI creation. Later on, on July 4, 2017, at the developer conference in Beijing, it was reported that the next generation of Baidu Cloud will be equipped with NVIDIA Volta processors, and besides, DRIVE PX supercomputers will be utilized in Baidu self-driving vehicles.
On November 15, 2016, in Wuzhen (China), tests for 18 Baidu self-driving cars were started during the World Internet Conference that took place there. As of the beginning of 2017, the company’s fleet of self-driving vehicles includes various brands, such as BYD Qin, Chery EQ, BAIC EU260, as well as 3rd series BMW – before November 2016.
On April 13, 2017, it was announced that the US company xPerception, dealing with software development for computer vision in VR and robotics, was acquired by Baidu. This acquisition will help the Chinese Internet giant develop artificial intelligence and self-driving cars.
On April 18, 2017, Baidu announced the “Apollo” platform creation the essence of which is helping automakers to create autonomous driving technology. To facilitate this process, the company provides its autonomous cars technology as an open source which includes hardware, software, data transfer services, and a set of testing tools. Later, in early July 2017, Baidu claimed that more than 50 companies had joined the “Apollo” platform including such serious players as Nvidia, Daimler, Ford, Microsoft, and Intel. Besides, Microsoft offered its cloud platform Microsoft Azure to provide Apollo program partners with an opportunity of exchanging data outside China.
On April 19, 2017, it was reported that Bosch would cooperate with Baidu and such cartographic companies as AutoNavi and NavInfo Co Ltd. The cooperation goal is to use Bosch radar and video sensors on cars designed for keeping 3D roadmaps updated.
On May 31, 2017, Baidu signs its next partnership agreement, this time with German Continental AG, the world leading company developing car spare parts and actively engaged in the driverless vehicles business. This cooperation has a goal to work out products, technologies, and processes which would result in workable solutions in the area of driverless vehicles including their communication and mobility.
The Internet giant plans to move out self-driving cars onto public roads in 2019 but exclusively for commercial rides, while mass production is planned for 2020-2021.