A Chinese internet giant just made a big move to compete with Tesla in the self-driving-car...

Datetime:2017-04-20 05:17:56         Topic: Tesla          Share        Original >>
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A fleet of Baidu's self-driving cars. Baidu

Baidu, one of China's biggest technology companies, said Tuesday it would open source its self-driving-car software in hopes of accelerating progress.

The move shows Baidu is serious about competing with the likes of Tesla as it looks to release the vehicles as part of a shared shuttle service in 2018 and to mass produce the cars in 2021.

Tesla has its sights set on China, which is becoming a more lucrative market for electric-car makers as the government prepares to tighten fuel-emission standards. The Chinese juggernaut Tencent recently acquired a 5% stake in Tesla.

Baidu, which has used electric vehicles for its self-driving-car fleet, said it would open source code for obstacle perception, trajectory planning, vehicle control, and vehicle operating systems. The company is calling its new open-sourcing efforts Project Apollo, named after the US lunar-landing program.

The tech giant will first open source its code for autonomous driving in a restricted environment in July. Baidu will gradually introduce more code over time, eventually releasing the software supporting full self-driving capabilities in 2020.

Baidu has faced some setbacks in the self-driving-car space. BMW and Baidu broke off their autonomous-research partnership in November over disagreements about the pace of development. Andrew Ng, Baidu's chief artificial-intelligence expert, is officially leaving the company at the end of April, Bloomberg reported .

As part of Project Apollo, Baidu said it would initiate partnership alliances to accelerate the pace of driverless-car research.

Baidu has tested self-driving cars on public roads in China and California. The company has retrofitted cars made by Chinese auto companies, like BYD and BAIC Motor, with its technology and Velodyne's lidar, a sensor that helps autonomous cars detect objects, on its vehicles.

Both Baidu and Ford invested $150 million in Velodyne last August.


Competition in autonomous driving is mounting as tech companies and traditional automakers vie for a slice of the pie.

Tesla cars are already being built with the hardware to support full self-driving capabilities, and the company plans to demonstrate the technology by having a vehicle drive itself across the US by the end of this year. Waymo, the company run under Google's parent company, Alphabet, is developing its driverless-car hardware in-house and may introduce a robot taxi service at the end of this year, though that has yet to be confirmed.

Ford has poured billions into its self-driving-car effort s and plans to release fully self-driving cars in a fleet setting in 2021. General Motors, which acquired the self-driving-car startup Cruise Automation in 2016, plans to test thousands of self-driving Chevy Bolts in 2018.

Baidu will have to accelerate its efforts if it plans to be a viable competitor when these cars start getting released as early as next year.