Baidu speeds ahead with $1.5bn fund for autonomous driving

Pablo Tucker
September 22, 2017

Chinese search engine giant Baidu has created a new CNY10bn ($1.5bn) Apollo Fund to invest in more than 100 new and emerging autonomous driving projects in the next three years.

Since launching Apollo, Baidu has recruited more than 70 partners to the project, including tech firms such as Nvidia Corp. and navigation giant TomTom NV.

Baidu also shipped a major update to Apollo this week, which added five core capabilities to its platform: obstacle perception, planning, cloud simulation, high-definition (HD) maps and end-to-end deep learning.

Apollo is Baidu's autonomous driving platform, with Chinese and worldwide 70 partners so far, including latest members Hyundai Motor, ROS, esd electronics, Neousys Technology and autonomous driving startups Momenta and iDriver+ Technologies.

The launch of the Apollo Fund by Baidu coincides with Apollo 1.5 being released.

When Baidu announced the Apollo program, it sought to use its artificial intelligence technology and to work with other companies in the development of the technology.

Baidu opened the platform to third parties hoping it would quicken its technology development and enable the company to compete with USA rivals such as Tesla and Google's Waymo project that have already heavily invested in the area.

More than 50 cooperation agreements with Apollo partners on mass production or joint product development plans have also been inked, it said.

This is the second large-scale investment firm Baidu has launched in recent times.

"Apollo doesn't equate to Baidu", company Vice President Wu Xuebin told Caixin, adding that Baidu was hoping to profit from the project by offering support through means like cloud-based services.

The company plans to release the first driverless auto next year and mass production is expected to begin by 2021.

Currently, Baidu are testing their autonomous vehicles in both China and the USA after facing challenges with local Chinese regulations, which stopped the company trialling the technology on highways in the past.

Other reports by iNewsToday