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China's Baidu takes driverless tech startup to court

The Chinese search giant accused the startup and its founder, a former Baidu staff member, of stealing its technology.

Baidu claims a former staff took its driverless tech and staff to start a new rival company on his own.

There's another version of Waymo's fight with Uber going on in China right now.

Search giant Baidu is taking its former driverless chief's self-driving tech startup to court over claims that the man stole its technology, Chinese media reported Friday. The accused man, Wang Jing, said the allegations are baseless.

More than 50 companies including Microsoft have collaborated with Baidu on a project named "Apollo," which aims to put self-driving cars on the road by 2020. After CEO Robin Li admitted at Baidu's AI conference that he was penalised for testing a driverless car on the road in Beijing, he announced the company has brought its plans forward to 2018.

But the race to put self-driving cars on the road first is a fierce one, and in China alone, Baidu battles rivals such as Didi Chuxing (the company that forced Uber out of China), which opened an R&D lab in Silicon Valley to develop "AI-based security and intelligent driving technologies." Jingchi, which at present is headquartered in the US, shouldn't be underestimated either, having raised $52 million in investments from the likes of Nvidia since it was founded in April.

Baidu seeks 50 million yuan (or about $7.6 million) and legal costs in compensation. It wants the startup, called Jingchi Inc, to quit using the alleged stolen technology. Baidu also claims Wang breached contractual agreements and poached its technical staff for Jingchi, which also hired former employees from Facebook and Google.

CNET has reached out to Baidu and Jingchi for a comment.

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