BEIJING - Baidu’s self-driving vehicles, part of a key national artificial intelligence research project, are expected to go into trial operation next year, according to Baidu Inc Chairman and CEO Robin Li.
The internet search giant has stepped up efforts to promote the commercialisation of self-driving technology. The company says the mass production of its self-driving vehicles will be possible in 2020, but it expects to achieve that goal ahead of schedule, Li said at the Baidu World Conference in Beijing on Thursday.
Baidu was chosen to lead the establishment of China’s AI national laboratory on deep learning early this year. Self-driving technologies are important to the national research project.
Li said the company plans to put autonomous buses that run in designated areas into mass production and trial operation by the end of July 2018, in cooperation with Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry Co.
“We will launch autonomous vehicles with Chinese automobile manufacturers JAC Motors and BAIC Group in 2019, and Chery Automobile Co in 2020,” Li said.
Baidu has invested heavily in the research and development of autonomous driving technology. In April, it announced a new project called Apollo, which is designed to open up its autonomous driving platform to partners.
The project has attracted 70 global and local partners, the company says. In September, it announced a 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) fund to support work on autonomous driving in the next three years.
Li said Baidu will promote the building of intelligent cities by working with the government of Xiongan New Area to reduce traffic jams and improve public transportation efficiency with its Apollo platform.
Zeng Zhiling, managing director of LMC Automotive Consulting Co, said Baidu’s efforts are significant to the automotive industry, but more time and tests are needed before such vehicles can reach mass production and large-scale commercial application given road safety concerns.
Other tech heavyweights also are ramping up to promote intelligent and internet-connected driving technologies. Tencent Holdings Ltd on Wednesday launched an intelligent electric car, iSpace, in collaboration with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co Ltd, with plans to put it into mass production in 2018.
In July, the State Council issued guidelines on developing AI and set a goal of becoming a global AI innovation centre by 2030. The total output value of AI core industries is expected to surpass 1 trillion yuan.