Heading right into Google’s turf, Chinese web services firm Baidu Inc., recently revealed that it also has plans to create a self-driving vehicle.
The Chinese internet search engine giant is even planning to augment its team to 100 researchers and engineers by the end of the year. The team will focus on testing, research, and development which is crucial to self-driving car development, including planning, perception, control and systems. The company has already shifted some of its staff to Sunnyvale and they will be part of Baidu’s new Autonomous Driving Unit. According to reports, the company has also hired a Tesla Autopilot software engineer.
The Autonomous Driving Unit, also called ADU-US, will mainly focus on building the autonomous technology. The team will develop the most crucial features and then later test the self-driving vehicles in different environments. Their most important objective is to make transportation more efficient and safer for consumers. The move is a major investment for the Chinese company and shows how serious it is about autonomous vehicles.
Besides the Silicon Valley team, the Nasdaq-listed company is reportedly working with German carmaker BMW for the self-driving car project for the Chinese market. Baidu and the German automaker revealed in December 2015 that they already finished the initial tests successfully. BMW entered into a partnership with the Chinese company in 2014 and has been testing their car tech in Beijing and Shanghai.
The company wants to progress in stages, starting with autonomy-enabled regions. Similar to Google’s current autonomous fleet, the Chinese internet giant’s cars will be clearly recognizable.
Several tech companies in China are entering the autonomous car space after the government issued a go-ahead to launch self-driving vehicles on public streets. The plan to feature self-driving vehicles by 2025 may be introduced sometime in 2016 and continue to be built and implemented in the next three to five years.
Li Keiang is leading the committee that is drafting the plan, which is supported by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Officials have begun a regulatory mechanism for self-driving vehicles, which may eventually exceed the United States and Europe. The draft will be then sent to the cabinet or State Council for approval.
There is no particular schedule regarding the acceptance of applications, hiring and testing periods. Further updates and details on the upcoming autonomous car are expected soon.