Baidu rolls ahead with plans for driverless cars later this year
The Chinese Internet service giant forecasts availability of driverless cars later this year, in the wake of its aggressive development for smarter vehicles
Based in Singapore, Hongzuo used to write for T3 Singapore covering tech and lifestyle topics. When he is not busy with writing, you can find him on his saxophone, or playing Dota 2, or petting cats around his neighborhood.
The move is an open contest against Google's design language for autonomous cars on the road. Baidu's deep learning lab head, Yu Kai, had previously stated that the new driverless cars should be intelligent enough to grant the driver freedom in delegating or resuming control, without completely replacing the driver.
"We've been busy working on the autonomous car, and we aim to put a prototype on a Beijing highway in the second half of this year," Yu said in an April interview with South China Morning Post.
While Baidu was a little secretive when it came to its current announcement, the company have been making bold strides within a public arena. Prototypes of car technology have been slowly making their rounds as Baidu ramps up efforts in the smart-car market.
At the Asian edition of the Consumer Electronics Show held in Shanghai late last month, Baidu unveiled its CarLife system together with Mercedes-Benz and Audi cars fitted with a dashboard that allows a car to access a driver's smartphone. According to Daimler, the company that owns the Mercedes-Benz brand, the collaboration for driverless cars with Baidu began four years ago.
Other examples of Baidu's active role in developing technology for driverless cars would include BMW's involvement with the Chinese tech company -- having moved driverless-car testing from Germany, homeground of BMW, to China's multi-level highways.
The German automobile giant has also confirmed that it is working with Baidu in order to have reliable road and traffic data for the tests and that such data cannot be stored on-board due to its need for constant updates for an accurate rendering of China's traffic environment.
To top it off, Baidu has also reportedly joined forces with Uber and private equity company Apax Partners in a bid for Nokia Oyj's maps business unit. Nokia's digital maps business, known as HERE, provides in-car navigation services for brands such as Japanese carmakers Toyota and Honda.
Baidu and its allies are said to be up against other group bidders such as China's Tencent Holdings and Microsoft is also looking to have a minority stake. Details of the bidding are confidential.