Baidu gets the green light

  • ASEAN+
  • Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Look, no hands: A man recording an ongoing autonomous driving test by taking a picture with his mobile phone. — China Daily/Asia News Network

Beijing: Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc is set to gain a big advantage in its race with US tech leaders in the driverless vehicle sector after a local government in East China’s Anhui province gave the green light to the setting up of a centre to test the vehicles.

Baidu, which has great ambition in driverless vehicles, signed a cooperation agreement on Monday with Wuhu municipal government to jointly build a trial operation zone for fully autonomous driving vehicles.

The trial zone, the first of its kind in China, will allow Baidu to become the only company to test autonomous driving in public transportation in Wuhu.

If the technology is proven to be workable, the local authorities in Wuhu are even considering repla­cing all of the city’s buses and part of its taxi fleet with driverless vehicles in another five years.

“Autonomous vehicles are the future of the auto industry. Instead of being defined by traditional technologies and performance, automobiles in the future will be defined by software,” said Wang Jin, head of Baidu’s autonomous driving business unit.

The establishment of the trial zone is seen as an important step for Baidu to meet its goal of “commercialising driverless technology in three years and achieving mass production in five years”.

The Beijing-based company, which runs China’s largest search engine, has placed great emphasis on artificial intelligence and auto­nomous driving, as it is keen to diversify its business.

Baidu’s autonomous car, which successfully completed road tests last December on combined road conditions – city roads, ring roads and highways – can run at a maximum speed of 100kph.

Qian Wenying, director of automobile research at Beijing-based consultancy Analysys International, said that the trial zone could provide Baidu a safer place to test its autonomous driving technology in all kind of weather and road conditions.

It will also help the cars “speed up their learning process”, therefore pushing the development of the technology. — China Daily/Asia News Network

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