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Toyota and Geely partner with Baidu's Apollo self-driving car program

The companies are working together to further develop the open-source autonomous car technology platform and the artificial intelligence necessary to run it.

Toyota's partnering with Baidu to get access to the Apollo Minibus that will be used in its self-driving e-Palette bus/van thing.

Baidu -- aka China's version of Google -- is teaming up with Toyota and Geely to work on both self-driving tech and artificial intelligence, according to a report published Sunday by Reuters.

Now, we've covered Baidu's open-source Apollo self-driving car suite before, and it's this that has Toyota knocking on Baidu's door, or at least a version of it. Toyota wants a leg up in developing the autonomous capabilities of its e-Palette bus/van thing and it's going to use a version of Apollo called the Minibus that's been designed just for that purpose.

The partnership with Toyota won't stop there, though. The companies will also work to integrate Apollo technology into future self-driving vehicles, though it's unclear whether these will be passenger cars meant to be sold to the public, or part of a service.

Not content to let Toyota have all the fun at Baidu's party, Geely -- aka the company that owns both Volvo and Lotus -- will also be working with the Chinese search giant, though this time it will be less focused on self-driving hardware and more focused on artificial intelligence.

Presently, Apollo has dozens of partner companies, including plenty of Chinese domestic companies but also a ton of companies with which you're likely already familiar, such as Honda, BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, Intel and Nvidia. The project got started in 2017 and is already in its fifth iteration with plans to reach full autonomy by 2021.

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