Chinese internet giant Baidu wants self-driving cars on roads in 3yrs

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The self-driving car market has another competitor as the Chinese internet giant Baidu says it wants to put a driverless automobile on the roads in the next three years. It has already completed a test drive and wants to introduce mass production in five years.

The likes of Google and Elon Musk’s Tesla have grabbed most of the headlines regarding driverless cars. However, the online search engine Baidu wants to prove it is more than capable of producing automated vehicles and compete with its US rivals.

"In the future, vehicles could be self-driven and controlled by smart systems. We have set a target to commercialize our operations in the next three years," Wang Jin, Baidu senior vice-president and manager of the new business unit, told the China People’s Daily. He added that within the next 10 years, around 80 percent of newly produced cars would have self-driving technology.

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Baidu believes that the self-driving car market in China is worth millions of dollars. However, the figure could go into the trillions when taking into account the entire car-related industry, which includes safe driving technology and energy savings in cars.

"Baidu itself is an example. It has invested in developing artificial intelligence and its businesses range from online search to internet-enabled cars. It has a Baidu map providing navigation services and its online to offline services can match people's search requests to dine out with the nearest restaurants," said Yan Honghui, an analyst with Beijing-based Internet consultancy Analysys International.

According to Yan, just like other tech giants Baidu is trying to tap into the car network, as they see it as the ultimate way to have greater access to their users, just as the smartphone managed to revolutionize the telecommunications industry.

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However, Li Xueyi, head of the Chinese Association for Artificial Intelligence, told the China People’s Daily there is a lot of work that needs to be achieved before this becomes reality.

“To actually make those cars a part of people's day lives, companies must achieve breakthroughs in cost, performance and reliability," he said.

Baidu, which joined forces with BMW in 2014 to try to launch self-driving cars, will not have exclusive control of the Chinese market. Internet rivals Alibaba and Keshi say they are moving into the industry and are set to team up with automobile makers.