Search giant and U.S. paratransit agency to launch pilot in Los Angeles by end of 2018
Internet search giant Baidu Inc said on Tuesday that it is working with Access Services, a U.S.-based public paratransit services provider to launch a self-driving pilot project in Los Angeles by the end of this year, as the tech behemoth accelerated its expansion in overseas markets.
The project is set to provide short route self-driving vehicle services for persons with disabilities and senior citizen communities, said the company at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Baidu and Singapore technology conglomerate Asia Mobility Industries unveiled a joint venture and a newly established $200 million fund to promote the commercialization of Baidu's autonomous driving technologies in Southeast Asia.
The fund aims to upgrade existing transportation infrastructure and further smart mobility research and development regionally. In addition, strategic partners in this region are also expected to participate in Apollo, Baidu's open autonomous driving platform.
The tech giant also announced Apollo 2.0 for simple urban road conditions, strengthened tie-ups with its 90 partners including Microsoft Corp, Udacity and TomTom, which will integrate its global HD mapping service into the Apollo platform.
"Apollo is from China, but is becoming increasingly global and in the future it will cooperate with even more overseas regions," said Zhang Yaqin, president of Baidu.
It launched the Apollo Global Institute, in a bid to further promote the growth of global autonomous driving talent by leveraging Baidu's technology centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Silicon Valley and Seattle.
China expects smart cars with partial or fully autonomous functions to account for 50 percent of new vehicles sold in the country by 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, said on Friday.
The government will accelerate the drafting of regulations for public road tests of self-driving and revise the current road safety regulations when conditions are mature.
Beijing released the country's first guideline on road tests of autonomous vehicles last December.
"Baidu is expanding its global alliance with an aim to make Apollo ultimately a globally compatible platform with different cars from different manufacturers," said Karen Chan, an equity analyst at Jefferies Hong Kong.
The company has been heavily investing in self-driving technologies. It said it would mass-produce driverless buses for designated areas by the end of July with Chinese bus manufacturer Xiamen King Long United Automotive Industry Co.
It also received permission from authorities in California to test its autonomous driving technologies in the state in 2016, and opened its second United States R&D facility in California in October.