China's biggest search engine Baidu is mimicking its US counterpart Google in branching out into the development of self-driving cars, with rigorous testing on mixed roads underway. Now, Baidu has revealed it intends on sharing this technology with the public -- literally.
The company is shooting to bring autonomous buses, vans and shuttles to China within three years, a Baidu spokesperson said, following a report from Reuters.
"Within three years, we plan to launch public use autonomous vehicles that will operate on fixed routes or fixed areas in select cities," the spokesperson explained. "We require government support of course, and we are in discussion with government at both central and local levels.
"Thus far, we have heard quite positive feedback," they added.
The move will see the company take a slightly different path than other automakers. Nissan, Toyota and Tesla have all said they expect to release at least partially self-driving cars by 2020, as has Google, though none have mentioned any plans for developing autonomous public transport vehicles.
It's not a world first though, with Swiss company BestMile expected to have driverless buses in its home country next year.
Last week, a BMW 3 kitted out with Baidu's self-driving technology was able to cruise a 30-kilometre (18-mile) route on its own, reaching a peak speed of 100 kilometres (61 miles) per hour. The vehicle was able to slow down when it detected cars ahead, and conduct sophisticated manoeuvres such as changing lanes, passing other cars, merging into traffic and making U-turns.