Baidu, Inc. announced a new project named "Apollo" which it says will provide an "open, complete, and reliable" software platform for partners in the automotive and autonomous driving industry to develop autonomous driving systems with reference vehicles and hardware platform.
Baidu says it aims to use its strengths in artificial intelligence (AI) technology to work with other companies to promote the development and adoption of autonomous driving technology.
"AI has great potential to drive social development, and one of AI's biggest opportunities is intelligent vehicles," says Qi Lu, group president and chief operating officer in a statement.
The "Apollo" project provides a hardware and software service approach that includes a vehicle platform, hardware platform, software platform, and cloud data services. Baidu says it will open-source code and capabilities in obstacle perception, trajectory planning, vehicle control, vehicle operating systems, and other functions, as well as a set of testing tools.
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The company says it will also initiate a partnership alliance, working with partners 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. The company says 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.
Baidu will first open its autonomous driving technology for restricted environment in July; it will then share its technology for cars running autonomously in simple urban road conditions toward the end of 2017. It says it will "gradually introduce fully autonomous driving capabilities" on highways and open city roads over time by 2020.
In December 2015, Baidu conducted road tests for its fully autonomous cars on the highways and roads of Beijing. Baidu received an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit for California in September 2016, and conducted open trial operations of its autonomous car fleet in November 2016 at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province.