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Baidu launches smart transportation initiatives in China

Baidu launches smart transportation initiatives in China
At Baidu’s annual technology conference Baidu World, the leading Chinese Internet search provider unveiled its self-driving vehicle on Thursday and also announced plans to pilot-test autonomous taxis in select cities. Named Hongqi L4, the autonomous passenger vehicle was developed in partnership with FAW Group, one
At Baidu's annual technology conference Baidu World, the leading Chinese Internet search provider unveiled its self-driving vehicle on Thursday and also announced plans to pilot-test autonomous taxis in select cities.

Named Hongqi L4, the autonomous passenger vehicle was developed in partnership with FAW Group, one of the largest car manufacturers in China. The level-four autonomous car can slow down, pull over or park on its own, according to the guidelines established by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The vehicle is powered by Baidu's Apollo autonomous driving platform. Testing and pilot operations will begin next year in cities including Beijing and Changchun. More Hongqi L4 will be deployed in other cities in 2020, Baidu said.

Apollo was launched in July 2017. Baidu has begun volume production of autonomous mini-buses called Apolong. The buses have been running in more than 10 locations in different parts of China.

The company also plans to launch a fleet of autonomous driving taxis next year for pilot operation in Changha, the capital city of Hunan province. The fleet of over 100 vehicles will be managed by the Apollo platform, which integrates smart vehicle system and road infrastructure to enable safe driving. Under this system, vehicles will be able receive signals from traffic lights.

“The era for autonomous passenger vehicles is upon us, but having only smart cars is not enough. We also need smart roads,” Baidu chairman and CEO Robin Li said. “By leveraging our capabilities in autonomous driving and AI technologies, we can develop comprehensive solutions that will greatly improve the efficiency of urban cities.”

There is more that Baidu wants to contribute to realize the smart transportation future. It is in talks with Beijing and Shanghai municipalities to develop AI-powered city management solutions, to help with urban safety, traffic congestion and public parking. Baidu believes its AI, cloud services and autonomous driving technologies will facilitate improved urban living venture.

Baidu also announced that it has reached an agreement with Volvo Cars to jointly develop electric cars with the autonomous capability. Baidu will bring the Apollo platform to the table, while Volvo will provide its expertise in car manufacturing. On October 31, Baidu announced partnership with Ford Motor to assist the American carmaker in testing autonomous cars in Beijing.

Tencent bets on smart mobility

Other China-based tech giants are also betting on the smart transportation market. On October 31, Internet-related service provider Tencent said it has formed a new smart mobility business unit, and will focus on auto intelligence, autonomous driving, location-based service and QR code passenger app, among others.

The passenger app is now being used in over 100 cities to let people pay for public transportation including buses, subway and ferry using their smartphones. The company has reportedly signed an agreement with Shenzhen Airlines to let passengers scan QR codes for security checks and boarding.

Traffic jams, few parking spaces, overcrowded buses and subways have plagued China's transportation sector. To address these challenges, Tencent is exploring cloud computing and big data in analyzing real-time traffic status for smarter transportation management.


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