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Baidu joins BAIC as China pushes for homegrown driverless cars
[LAS VEGAS] Baidu Inc and state-owned Beijing Automotive Group Co's collaboration on telematics and autonomous driving is almost ready for its coming-out moment, as industry and government join hands to push for self-driving vehicles within China.
A BAIC-built model equipped with Baidu technology will debut in April at the Shanghai auto show, BAIC Chairman Xu Heyi said in interview Friday at the CES 2017 trade show in Las Vegas. The two companies also plan to conduct road testing of a car that will be autonomous in limited environments by the end of this year.
China is seeking to shed its image as a cheap manufacturer of products with little value-added content. The government is pushing its technology and manufacturing industries to create more sophisticated products and services in line with the global trend toward digitisation and internet connectivity.
Home to the world's biggest auto market, China has set a goal for 10 per cent to 20 per cent of vehicles to be highly autonomous by 2025, and for 10 per cent of cars to be fully self-driving in 2030.
State broadcaster China Central Television began airing a five-part series this month on one of its prime-time programmes to highlight the country's efforts in autonomous vehicles and related technology.
"It's a smart move for both to team up," said Bill Russo, managing director of Gao Feng Advisory Co.
"BAIC can bring manufacturing and Baidu can bring technology capability to solve mobility problems."
The cooperation with BAIC is Baidu's most comprehensive, though the internet giant is also working with other automakers to develop self-driving cars, Baidu President Zhang Yaqin said Friday.
The Beijing-based company is close to setting up a new research centre near Seattle that will focus on artificial intelligence and cloud computing and security, he said.
Baidu formed a self-driving car team in Silicon Valley in April that it said would employ more than 100 researchers and engineers by the end of last year. It's partnered with chip maker Nvidia Corp, has been testing its autonomous vehicles in eastern Chinese cities including Wuhu and Shanghai, and earned a permit from California to trial in the state last year.
BAIC, owned by the local government of Beijing, has made progress of its own. The automaker, whose joint-venture partners include Daimler AG and Hyundai Motor Co, let customers ride in self-driving cars on a test track in April.