Thursday, July 13, 2017

Baidu Starts Testing Its Self-driving Cars in China

By Asia Pop Culture

Picture source: People's Daily
People's Daily reported that Baidu, the search engine giant of China, will spend the next three to five years testing in the City of Baoding (保定市) in Hebei Province (河北省).  During the test period, Baidu will study to improve user experience, while also exploring business models.

Baidu is a long-time investor in AI technology projects and has been developing autonomous-driving research since 2014. Baidu is not the only one in the race of self-driving cars. Many major auto makers such as GM, Ford, along with tech giants including Google and Apple are also rushing to develop such vehicles or the software behind them.  While Google has quit China, it still has Waymo for the rest of the world.  Apple started testing its autonomous-car technology on a Lexus car in California earlier this year.

Unfortunately, things have not gone so well in China.  Chinese government has strict regulations on self-driving technology making it difficult to test and develop driverless vehicles. Traffic regulations in most Chinese cities ban self-driving cars that not even a seemingly powerful home-grown enterprise like Baidu could get around as Baidu CEO Robin Li learned the hard way recently.

At the Baidu Create Conference held in Beijing last week, Li video-called into the conference from the passenger seat of a driverless car.  While the footage has gone viral on Chinese social media, Li apparently forgot this is against the law in Beijing. According to Shanghaiist, it was a Beijing Youth Daily reporter who immediately contacted local police and prompted a police investigation on Li.  

Tesla came under fire last year after a fatal crash involving its "self-driving" model marketed and sold in China.  Baidu and Baoding City (保定市) are taking extra care.  For now, Baidu's self-driving cars will stay within an enclosed "car test zone," without the risk of getting into accidents with normal traffic flows hurting other drivers and vehicles.

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