Baidu may not be the most well-known name worldwide, but it is one of the largest technology companies in China, with its search engine being the most widely-used search service in the People's Republic. The company last year announced that it has been testing self-driving vehicles for over two years in its deep-learning research lab, much like Google has been for the past few years. While its tests have been restricted to its home country thus far, the company is now apparently planning to start testing them abroad – specifically, in the U.S. According to a report published by the Wall Street Journal, Baidu has plans to build a "commercially viable" autonomous vehicle as early as 2018. The company reportedly already has an office in Sunnyvale, CA, where many of its 160 employees are apparently busy with the autonomous vehicles project.
Baidu uses modified BMW 3-series compact sedans for its testing purposes, having signed a partnership with the Bavarian automaker back in 2014 to test self-driving cars. The two companies had originally announced their intention of launching autonomous vehicles commercially by 2015 itself, but now that we're already past that deadline, the company seems to be looking at a more realistic target of 2018 to roll out its fleet, which will reportedly focus on the public shuttle market rather than private ownership. While not much is known about Baidu's research in the autonomous vehicles space, the company did announce last year that its test vehicle has traveled a distance of 18.6-miles throughout the country's capital city of Beijing.
Baidu is one of the many companies worldwide that has been testing self-driving automotive technologies over the past few years. While original research regarding autonomous cars started as far back as the 1920s, it was Carnegie Mellon University's path breaking research in the 1980s in partnership with Mercedes-Benz that produced the first truly self-driving vehicle as a proof-of-concept prototype. More recently, a number of tech companies, automakers and auto parts manufacturers like Google, Apple, Baidu, General Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, Tesla Motors, Peugeot etc. have been pouring their time, money and energy testing their vehicles and assessing the commercial viability of such technology in the real world.