Baidu today announced a new Apollo Fund investment of 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) for its autonomous driving initiative. The Chinese Internet giant has been developing self-driving technology for some time now, and the new funding will help to progress related solutions as part of the firm's bid to compete with industry rivals such as Alphabet's Waymo, Tesla, and Uber, as well as being part of a wider strategy of revenue diversification following the company's declining advertising performance in 2016.Baidu said that 100 autonomous driving projects would receive investments across the next three years from the Apollo Fund.
Developing its self-driving project has not been entirely smooth for Baidu so far, with some of this being due to Chinese regulations regarding the use of public highways. However, Baidu has continued to progress and unlike some companies involved in the push for automated driving, it has taken a more open approach and intends to make some of its inventions freely available. Today’s news concurred with the release of the company’s latest autonomous driving software in the form of Apollo 1.5, the second generation of Baidu's development kit and a direct successor to Apollo 1.0 which was designed to facilitate the creation of related technologies. The latest version of the software brings several new capabilities, including technology for accurate obstacle tracking in all conditions, HD maps, cloud simulation, and end-to-end deep learning solutions, as well as more general AI services.
Back in April, the company announced that its Apollo self-driving program would launch in July, with its initial self-driving plans set to be conducted in limited testing environments, and a long-term plan for autonomous vehicles to be fully deployed on the roads by 2020. The company previously said that it would be working with different partners concerning the supply of vehicles, sensors, and components for its emerging self-driving platform, and today revealed that while it was partnering with 50 automotive companies in July, that number has now risen to 70, with Neousys Technology, iDriver+ Technologies, Hyundai Motor, and Udacity being among the latest collaborators who joined the initiative. Considering the firm's investment, more details on its self-driving endeavors are likely to follow shortly.