BEIJING – China’s search giant Baidu signed an agreement with the municipal government of Wuhu, Anhui Province on May 16 to build a “driverless vehicle operation zone” there.
Said to be the first of its kind in the world, the special area is expected to help Baidu’s goal of commercializing driverless cars in three years and mass producing them in five.
The cooperation will be carried out in three phases. Badu’s driverless cars would first run on roads in parts of Wuhu with simple road condition in phase one, with testing areas to be expanded in 3-5 years in phase two and operation in the entire city realized in the final phase. Wuhu becomes the first of 10 cities that Baidu’s driverless cars will test in over the next three years, according to Wang Jin, president of Badu’s Autonomous Driving division.
Wang also brought forward a concept of “software defined vehicle” (SDV), which he believes 60 percent of the value will be from software. “Autonomous driving represents a future trend for the auto industry and future vehicles will be defined by software with artificial intelligence being the core rather than traditional technologies and performance metrics. This will drastically change the industry,” said Wang.
Pan Chaohui, mayor of Wuhu, said driverless cars lead to industry innovation and accelerates urban industry development, and the city will provide Baidu with help on R&D, vehicle testing, trial operation, standards improvement and industry promotion. Yin Tongyue, chairman and president of Wuhu-based Chery, will serve as a senior advisor for the project.
Baidu is hoping to cooperate with governments at all levels, OEMs, sensor, chip and server manufacturers, mobility providers, insurance companies and technology institutions on technology, data, client, capital, operation, safety to build an ecosystem for driverless cars, according to early reports.
Last December, Baidu announced that its driverless cars had first completed autonomous driving road tests on expressways, beltways and regular roads, with maximum speed reaching 100 km/h. Its Autonomous Drive division was established soon after. Baidu’s driverless cars were developed based on Level 4 automation, which is completely autonomous.