According to a statement from the Chinese search giant Baidu, the company has recently received permission to begin testing self-driving cars in California joining its search counterpart Google as well as other companies in the race to transform the automotive industry.
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California DMV gives Baidu the green light
Baidu has already road tested its first efforts in the arena in its native China using a BMW with a clumsy array of sensors atop mounted on top. Looking at the pictures it’s quite clear that Baidu wasn’t interested in aesthetics, but rather the collecting of as much data as possible during its test drives.
Now, the company is shifting its testing to California according to Wang Jing, general manager of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit, speaking to the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) permission to begin testing near its headquarters in the Silicon Valley.
“We will start testing our autonomous driving technologies on public roads very soon in California,” he said in a statement.
“Baidu has already built a strong team in Silicon Valley to develop autonomous driving technologies, and being able to do road tests will greatly accelerate our progress.”
Nvidia jumps in the passenger seat with Baidu
To meet the target of a commercial launch of autonomous cars in 2018, albeit on a small scale, Baidu also announced a partnership with graphics processor manufacturer Nvidia.
According to Nvidia’s chief Jen-hsun Huang the partnership’s goal is to develop a fleet of fully autonomous taxis by 2020.
“We will be able to deliver a cloud-to-car architecture platform that promises to get cars on the road in the next several years,” said Mr Huang.
Make no mistake; Baidu is an absolute beast (just like Google) which has benefited tremendously from Google’s lack of a Chinese presence. If Google can be at the forefront of self-driving cars with money made from search-based advertising revenue, surely Baidu can do the same and the company, like Google, is clearly not all about search but technology.
Self-driving cars seemed like science fiction just ten years ago, maybe even five years past. Now, many see that they will likely be inside of an autonomous taxi in less than five years.