[BEIJING] Baidu Inc may introduce an autonomous car this year as the owner of China's largest search engine joins companies from Google Inc. to Apple Inc. in developing driverless vehicles.
Baidu has been researching the smart car and should be ready to roll it out this year, Chief Executive Officer Robin Li said in a brief interview before attending meetings of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing today.
China's Information Technology and Industry Minister Miao Wei said last week that he would encourage companies outside the traditional auto industry to tie up with existing manufacturers to spur innovation and competition.
Among other Chinese companies, Leshi Internet Information & Technology (Beijing) Co, a maker of Web-enabled TVs, has said it would invest billions of dollars into developing a connected electric car.
Apple has been working on an electric auto and is pushing to begin production as early as 2020, people with knowledge of the matter said last month. Google said in January it aims to have a self-driving car on the road within five years.