Baidu announces $1.5B autonomous driving fund

The company also released the latest version of Apollo, its open-source autonomous driving platform.

Baidu anticipates fully autonomous vehicles on highways by 2020

Chinese search engine giant Baidu is stepping up its involvement in the self-driving vehicles space with a new, $1.5 billion fund. Called the Apollo Fund, named after its open-source autonomous driving platform, Baidu plans to invest the fund in 100 autonomous driving projects in the next three years, the company announced.

Baidu also released the latest version of its autonomous driving platform, Apollo 1.5, with five new core capabilities: Its new obstacle perception capability enables vehicles to identify obstacles both during the day and at night. It also has new route planning capabilities, cloud simulation, HD maps, and end-to-end deep learning.

First announced in April, the Apollo platform has 70 partners so far. More than 1,300 companies have downloaded Apollo source code, Baidu says, and nearly 100 companies have applied for open data via the Apollo website. The company says it's signed more than 50 cooperation agreements with Apollo partners on mass production or joint product development plans.

Several technology companies around the globe are competing with Baidu to gain a foothold in the automotive industry as autonomous driving technology advances. Alphabet-owned Waymo recently revealed that it's working with Intel to power its autonomous driving platform. Last week, Samsung announced it's establishing a $300 million fund that will invest in connected car and autonomous technologies.

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