Global web services and technology company, Baidu has announced it will provide an open and complete software platform to help develop worldwide autonomous driving systems with reference vehicles and hardware.
Currently, a number of major technology players are active in the autonomous driving field, and leading automotive manufacturers have begun to incorporate driverless technology into their own vehicles.
However, most have been working independently or maintained complete control over their technology. Baidu is looking to change that.
Baidu – reportedly often referred to as the “Chinese Google” – aims to build a collaborative ecosystem and work together with other companies to promote the development and commercialisation of autonomous driving technology.
Called ‘Apollo’, the project aims to leverage the company’s expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
Its group president and chief operating officer, Qi Lu explained: “AI has great potential to drive social development, and one of AI’s biggest opportunities is intelligent vehicles.”
According to Baidu, ‘Apollo’ was borrowed from the Apollo lunar landing programme – the ground-breaking aerospace project that brought together multiple forces for the benefit of society. The company believes autonomous driving is similar in terms of its potential to transform the world.
Apollo’s goal is to provides a complete system, one that includes a vehicle platform, hardware platform, software platform and cloud data services. Baidu will open source code and capabilities in obstacle perception, trajectory planning, vehicle control, vehicle operating systems and other functions, as well as a complete set of testing tools.
The company will also look to initiate a partnership alliance, working with those who will provide the best and most compatible vehicles, sensors, and other components, to achieve broad participation and collaboration and to provide references and recommendations to participants of a rapidly expanding ecosystem.
This will lower the barriers to entry for research and development of autonomous driving technologies, making it more accessible to the general public, and accelerate the overall pace of innovation.
Initial, Baidu is expected to open its autonomous driving technology for restricted environment in July this year. It will subsequently share its technology for cars running autonomously in simple urban road conditions towards the end of 2017; and, finally, it will gradually introduce fully autonomous driving capabilities on highways and open city roads by 2020.