Chinese internet giant Baidu and state-owned passenger vehicle manufacturer BAIC Motor Corp have formed a strategic partnership that will see the companies produce and promote autonomous vehicle technology in China.
Announced on Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017, Baidu's autonomous driving research and development arm, Baidu Intelligent Vehicle, will work with the automaker on two key projects, the first of which is the launch of a BAIC-built vehicle equipped with Baidu's telematics solutions at the Shanghai auto show in April.
The companies will also trial a Level 3 autonomous vehicle on limited roads by the end of 2017. Level 3 autonomy still requires human drivers to be present and capable of taking the steering wheel if needed to prevent accidents, however continuous monitoring isn't required.
As part of the partnership, the companies will also collaborate on HD maps for use in autonomous driving, and BAIC will provide OEM solutions including CarLife, CoDriver, and MapAuto for Baidu's intelligent vehicle program.
CarLife, a smartphone integration application for connected cars, has been deployed in nearly 150 car models from 60 automakers including Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and Shanghai GM, and counts more than 700,000 car owners as active users.
Baidu and BAIC have also agreed to launch a new research lab as part of their joint efforts.
"The future of the automobile industry lies in the deep integration and synergistic innovation between traditional automobile manufacturers and Internet companies," said BAIC president Feng Li. "Our strategic partnership with Baidu will help upgrade the intelligent technology capabilities of both companies, while establishing a model for development in the smart vehicle industry."
BAIC is not the only company the internet search giant is working with to advance autonomous vehicles. In September 2016, Baidu and Nvidia announced a partnership that combines Nvidia's self-driving computing platform with Baidu's cloud and mapping technology to develop an algorithm-based operating system capable of powering complex navigation systems in autonomous vehicles. The companies have been testing autonomous vehicles in eastern Chinese cities including Wuhu and Shanghai.
The partnership announcement coincided with a permit being awarded to Baidu by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to road-test autonomous vehicles.
In April, Baidu announced that it had formed a self-driving team in Silicon Valley, focused on the research, development, and testing of autonomous vehicles. The team is part of Baidu Autonomous Driving Unit that operates in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
Baidu is currently looking to set up a new research centre near Seattle that will focus on artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and security. There are already three research labs under the Baidu Research umbrella, with 1,300 employees in the AI team alone.