Baidu, which has been working on its own self-driving tech for a few years now, has confirmed plans to switch its self-driving fleet to electric-powered vehicles. Up until now, the company, often called the Google of China, had been using a modified BMW 3-series for its testing but it has now confirmed that it will is swapping it out for a modified Chery EQ, a small four-door hatchback that’s manufactured in China.
According to a Baidu spokesperson, the electric vehicle has already joined the fleet, though the modifications that Baidu have made to it are currently unknown. The Cherry EQ claims to have a range of 120 miles while only costing the equivalent of $9,000, allowing the company to order a high number of these vehicles for further testing and eventual use by the public.
Baidu’s goal in China is to have a shuttle service up and running by 2018, meaning this new electric vehicle should be perfect, considering they are small and have enough range to last a number of journeys before needing a recharge. Unfortunately, Baidu’s timeframe coincides with that of Nutonomy, a company which only recently started testing its self-driving shuttle service in Singapore, meaning the company could have some fierce competition on their hands by the time they launch. As well as Nutonomy, the company also faces fierce competition from the likes of Didi, which recently acquired Uber China.
In an attempt to ensure it can compete, Baidu has increased the amount of research and investments on its self-driving project over the past 12 months, with the company opening R&D centers in the United States, where it is also testing its vehicles. In order to compete against the likes of Didi and Nutonomy, there appear to be two options for the company. The first option would be beating both companies to the market, which would hopefully allow them to gain enough market share to eventually fend off the competition. On the other hand, the company could also wait longer before launching, in the hope of creating the better service and therefore attracting more customers. What do you think of Baidu's efforts? Let us know in the comments below.