Forbes Global 2000 Ranking: 390
Autonomy: Level 4
“Without a doubt, Baidu will get support and solid incentives from Chinese Government.”
Chinese internet search-engine giant did not miss the opportunity to confront American Big Tech companies and started to work on autonomous vehicles in 2014 with an aggressive pace. Its project is called ‘Apollo’ and this can be taken as a sign of their ambition.
In September 2017, Baidu fund-raised $1.5 billion for autonomous vehicle research and it already teamed up with a bunch of industry leaders: Robert Bosch, Hyundai, Nvidia, Continental, TomTom and Microsoft. BMW used to be one of the stakeholders of ‘Apollo’ project, but it pulled out with a very political statement: “We now have found that the development pace and the ideas of the two companies are a little different.”
Baidu plans to release limited number of vehicles in 2018 and make its debut with Level 4 self-driving cars in 2021.
The unique point about Apollo Project is: It plans to share its software as an open-source platform for self-driving cars. This brave attempt might sound like nonsense and giving away know-how for free, but just think of the Android platform and how it succeeded to become the most used mobile device operating system. Baidu might democratize autonomous research in the same manner!
Baidu teamed up with big names in automotive but none of them is one of the pioneers of autonomous driving technology. It does not struggle with raising funds and as a Chinese company, without a doubt it will get support and solid incentives from Chinese Government. However, its only car manufacturer partner is Hyundai which has almost no background in self-driving technology and Baidu has no expertise to fill this gap, currently. I have no doubt, Baidu will succeed to mass produce its self-driving models, but I think it is not likely to pioneer autonomous challenge.