Internet company Baidu yesterday made a major announcement regarding its self-driving technology program Apollo, citing a July launch for its upcoming solutions that will be limited to certain testing environments in the coming years. The move comes despite news back in November that disagreements concerning the future development of self-driving technology had led to Baidu halting its research collaboration with German car manufacturer BMW. Although the company’s current self-driving plans will initially apply to limited testing environments, the long-term plan includes full deployment of related autonomous vehicles by 2020.
Baidu has been working on self-driving technology and testing self-driving cars for some time now and is not the only company in the race to provide cars that will be able to drive themselves. Alphabet’s Waymo, Uber, and Lyft are just some of the well-known names in the industry that are also committing massive resources to developing this emerging technology. Many traditional automakers are also taking part in the endeavor, and the eventual outcome is said to completely transform the car industry.
Yesterday Baidu discussed the Apollo program for its self-driving platform, stating that it aims to work alongside partners who will deliver the necessary vehicles, components, and sensors. The company's Chief Operating Officer Qi Lu stated that “AI has great potential to drive social development," specifically pointing at intelligent vehicles as one of the most promising industry segments that stand to benefit from advancements in machine learning and related fields. Baidu’s latest move will further propel autonomous driving development, and the company is hoping that automakers will find its related technologies appealing, industry watchers believe. Many companies involved in the push for automated driving keep their developments under wraps, but Baidu opted for a different approach and will make many of its inventions freely available. Meanwhile, the Chinese tech giant will control other autonomous driving features via an application programming interface. Baidu previously announced a drive forward on machine learning as well as AI and AR, with the launch of a fund worth $200 million, shortly before it also debuted a $3 billion fund aimed at incubating promising startups. An update on the company's business endeavors will likely follow later this year.