Like its US contemporary, China's biggest search company Baidu is investing heavily in the technology that will underpin the self-driving cars of the future. However, unlike Google, it believes the quickest way to speed up progress is to open up its platform to the whole industry, rather than simply building partnerships.
To underline its ambitious scale, Baidu is calling the initiative Project Apollo as making self-driving cars a reality is, in its view, as significant as landing on the moon.
"China is the world's largest market for automotive sales and production. It has many car brands and an open environment that is ripe for collaboration. Baidu took the initiative to open our autonomous driving technology to the industry in order to encourage greater innovation and opportunities," said Baidu COO, Qi Lu.
Baidu has made huge strides in the field -- particularly in Artificial Intelligence -- since officially launching its autonomous driving initiative in 2015. It has already conducted real-word tests on Chinese and American roads and hopes that by launching Project Apollo it will have cars capable of driving with full autonomy on highways and what it describes as "open city roads" by 2020.
Alongside a number of domestic carmakers, including Cherry and NextEv (the company behind the NIO marque) who have announced their intention to join Apollo, the biggest name to accept Baidu's invitation is Bosch -- the world's biggest automotive supplier.
The German firm will be working with Baidu to develop the detailed live maps that cars will need in order to navigate for themselves, even with Artificial Intelligence helping them make decisions. "Automated driving will not be possible without high-precision maps -- not in China and not anywhere else in the world either," said Dr. Rolf Bulander, chairman of Bosch's Mobility Solutions business. "Automated driving is a global topic for Bosch. With China we are now starting our fourth testing location after Germany, the US, and Japan."
The maps they will develop will be optimized to work with the camera and sensing arrays that Bosch already builds and supplies to the industry, and the companies have already built a test car based on the Jeep Cherokee for collecting map data and testing semi-autonomous features on Chinese freeways.
China is the world's biggest car market and it is still growing. More importantly, the concept of driving itself is still new to the country's culture, meaning that drivers in general are less experienced and more prone to accidents, but are also less attached to the concept of the car as something other than a means of transport.
That's why when Bosch surveyed public opinion, just 33% of German drivers said they're in favor of the rapid introduction of autonomous driving compared with a massive 74% in China.
"Through open technology our technological achievements can be quickly applied to a wide range of fields -- and accelerate even more achievements," said Qi Lu.
Source: Yahoo Tech
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