Robin Li, the chairman and chief executive officer of Chinese online search giant Baidu, has revealed that the tech firm plans on launching a fully autonomous bus next year in China. Li was speaking during the WSJ D.Live technology event organized by The Wall Street Journal. Earlier this year Baidu unveiled Apollo, an open-source driverless-car software which it hopes will assist in turning it into a major player in the space.
According to Li, Baidu is partnering with BAIC Motor Corp in order to produce semi-autonomous vehicles running on Apollo on a mass scale by 2019. In the next four years Baidu intends to produce fully autonomous cars on a mass scale together with its business partner.
Baidu’s fully autonomous bus will be produced in partnership with a bus maker in China and will operate on a route that will be specially designated. The Chinese online search giant is betting on its Apollo software to lure motor vehicle manufacturers who might be put off by Google’ driverless car unit, Waymo.
According to Li Baidu’s pitch to car makers is that they will have more control over their data as well as user experience compared to Waymo’s closed system. However most industry experts are of the opinion that the technology of Google’s self-driving unit is the most advanced with its development having started in 2009.
Due to the fact that Apollo is an open source technology, the Chinese online search giant is not counting on software sales as its sole source of revenue. Li pointed out that numerous other business opportunities existed and this included writing insurance policies, selling high-definition maps, simulation systems and data.
Immersive technology experiences
In its self-driving cars Baidu will offer immersive technology experiences complete with interactive entertainment and screens. Baidu spends approximately 15% of the revenue it generates on research and development and this comes to around $1.5 billion. Most of this R&D budget goes to artificial intelligence.
Baidu’s announcement that it will be launching an autonomous bus next year comes in the wake of the online search firm joining the Hyperledger blockchain consortium, a group which is led by Linux Foundation and which concentrates on the development of blockchain technologies that can be used by enterprises. According to Zhang Xuyang, the vice president of Baidu, blockchain could assist in offering a more customized search experience.
“Over the past 17 years, we have striven to fulfill our mission by listening carefully to our users. We’re thrilled to be part of Hyperledger and look forward to collaborating with other