Autonomous driving

Ford to test self-driving cars in Beijing with Baidu, the latest carmaker to join the Apollo platform

  • Apollo has garnered about 130 partners ranging from carmakers to tech giants like Microsoft, and chip maker Nvidia
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 9:11pm

Ford Motor and Baidu have launched a two-year project that will enable the US carmaker to test self-driving cars on Beijing’s road network, according to a joint announcement on Wednesday.

The test, slated to begin by the end of the year, will focus on level four autonomous driving, where vehicles would be able to slow down, pull over or park themselves at a safe spot if a human driver does not take control when requested, according to industry guidelines set by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

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“Working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China to offer innovative solutions that improve safety, convenience and the overall mobility experience,” said Sherif Marakby, president and chief executive of Ford’s autonomous vehicles unit.

Ford is a founding member of the Apollo Committee, an advisory group for Baidu’s autonomous driving open platform. Apollo has garnered about 130 partners ranging from carmakers to tech giants like Microsoft, and chip maker Nvidia.

Autonomous vehicles are a key part of Baidu’s future as it seeks to reshape itself into a major player in artificial intelligence, in line with China’s national strategy to develop global leadership in the field.

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The AI investment boom has been boosted by the Chinese government’s “call for businesses to achieve leadership in AI”, according to a joint study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG). China has even appointed four of the country’s biggest technology companies - Baidu, Alibaba Group, Tencent Holdings and voice recognition specialist iFlyTek - as “national champions” to lead the development of AI innovation platforms in self-driving cars, smart cities, medical diagnosis and voice intelligence, respectively.

Last year, the Beijing-based company was hand-picked to spearhead the country’s effort in autonomous driving.

Earlier this year, BMW and Daimler received their licenses for open road tests of autonomous cars in Shanghai and Beijing respectively, becoming the first foreign carmakers to obtain such approvals.