China Search Engine Giant Baidu Inc. announced a 10 billion yuan approx to $1.5 Billion to autonomous driving fund on Thursday as part of a wider plan to speed up its technical development and compete with U.S. rivals.
Autonomus Fund to Driving Project
The “Apollo Fund” will invest in 100 autonomous driving projects over the next three years, Baidu said in a statement.The fund’s launch coincides with the release of Apollo 1.5, the second generation of the company’s open-source autonomous vehicle software.
Baidu has vowed to release a driverless car by 2018, with mass production to begin by 2021 and has already enlisted 70 global and Chinese partners from car makers and ride-sharing companies, as partners for its Apollo project. Baidu’s Apollo project – named after the NASA moon landing – aims to create technology for completely autonomous cars, which it says will be ready for city roads in China by 2020.
Baidu has previously tested its cars close to its campus in Beijing’s northwest without incident, and is working with China’s government to develop rules for self-driving cars, which currently exist in a legal grey area. The “Apollo Fund” is jointly established by the software giant and the Yangtze River Industry Fund, an investment program run by the Hubei provincial government.
Timeline: Baidu hits the road
July 2014: Baidu confirms it’s working on a driverless car.
December 2015: Shows off its autonomous driving rig for the first time, strapped onto a BMW.
December 2015: Aims for its driverless tech on China’s roads by 2020 for commercial vehicles, and 2022 for passenger cars.
April 2016: Tapping into Silicon Valley’s AI talent, it plans to have more than 100 researchers and engineers working on cars in its US lab by the end of 2016.
November 2016: Rolls out wide-scale self-driving car tests in one Chinese city in partnership with three local automakers.
April 2017: Says its autonomous tech will be freely available to company that wants to make use of it.
September 2017: Apollo gets a major update to version 1.5, including “autonomous driving capabilities in designated lanes, perfectly recognizing obstacles and passengers, and making optimal driving decisions even at night,” said Baidu in a statement.