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Baidu JV readies for robocar launch

By FAN FEIFEI | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-28 09:06
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Robin Li (right), co-founder and CEO of Baidu, experiences the interior of a self-driving robocar. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Smart electric vehicle venture Jidu Auto, a joint venture that tech giant Baidu Inc and carmaker Geely Holding Group set up in March, plans to unveil its first concept robocar with level 4 autonomous driving ability in the first half of 2022, Baidu said.

Baidu, a Chinese online search pioneer that evolved into a full-fledged tech player, said mass production of robocars will start in 2023.

Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu, said the robocars need no human intervention, and are capable of self-learning and self-improvement.

Li made the remarks at the company's annual flagship developers' conference Baidu Create, which is also China's first metaverse symposium, on Monday via its metaverse platform called Xirang.

The Xirang platform, which translates as the "land of hope", enables up to 100,000 online attendees to interact simultaneously in the same space.

According to Li, intelligent transportation will witness a significant transformation in the next 10 to 40 years and influence people's daily lives. It will lift the purchase restrictions on private cars in China's first-tier cities within five years and solve the urban road congestion within 10 years, Li said.

Smart mobility can also reduce road accidents by 90 percent and help reduce carbon emissions, Li said. AI is a powerful tool that can reconstruct various industries and benefit humanity by expanding the boundaries of what is possible for mankind, he said.

Baidu's autonomous driving capabilities have made rapid progress in recent months. With 115,000 rides provided in the third quarter of the year, Baidu's autonomous ride-hailing platform Apollo Go has become the world's largest autonomous mobility service provider.

The company aims to expand the robotaxi services to 65 cities by 2025 and to 100 cities by 2030.

Li said AI's cognitive and control capabilities will find broad applications in the aerospace industry. Earlier this month, Baidu formed a strategic partnership with China's lunar exploration and aerospace projects. The two sides will carry out cooperation in space and AI technologies in the field of lunar and planetary exploration.

Baidu will continue to promote the cultivation of AI talent in the future and nurture 5 million AI specialists within five years, Li said.

"Baidu has accelerated its steps in the vehicle-to-everything infrastructure construction across the nation, in a bid to promote the commercialization of autonomous driving technologies," said Zhang Xiang, a researcher at the Automobile Industry Innovation Research Center, which is part of the North China University of Technology in Beijing.

V2X is a key technology that allows vehicles to communicate with moving parts of the traffic system around them. It also enables automatic safety functions in vehicles and the collaborative management of roads.

Zhang said fully self-driving vehicles still have a long way to go before they can reach the mass production stage or be used commercially, considering the current technological limitation.

Yang Diange, a professor from the School of Vehicle and Mobility at Tsinghua University, said L4 self-driving technology enables a vehicle to drive itself under most circumstances without a human backup driver.

It will be first deployed in taxis and trucks in some designated areas. Large-scale application of such technologies in private vehicles might happen by 2030, experts said.

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