China’s Baidu follows Google steer with self-driving Car

July 28, 2014 5:37 pm

China’s Baidu follows Google steer with self-driving car

©Reuters

Baidu, the Chinese search engine that has mimicked US technology group Google’s biggest innovations, is experimenting with its own version of a self-driving car.

Baidu has already branched out into web browsers, produced street-view maps and plans a version of Google Glass – provisionally dubbed Baidu Eye.

Its latest project is a car that will be “highly autonomous” rather than driverless, and include an “intelligent assistant” to aid the driver.

Google’s car prototype dispensed with steering wheels and pedals. But Kai Yu, Baidu’s vice director of research, compared Baidu’s car with a “horse” that would guide itself unless the driver wanted to take over.

Although still in development, Baidu said its prototype consisted of one of its street-view filming cars fitted with an array of sensors and cameras. It said it had already been careering around the company’s campus in Beijing.

Baidu started the car project earlier this year as one of several research and development initiatives designed to utilise its mapping service and gather data about Chinese road travel.

Mr Yu described the technology as more akin to an assistant that would use information from Baidu’s databases of locations and road conditions to plan routes.

“This is an intelligent assistant collecting data from road situations and then operating locally,” Mr Yu toldThe Next Web, a technology blog.

“We don’t call this a driverless car. I think a car should be helping people, not replacing people, so we call this a highly autonomous car,” he said.

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Google decided to dispense with driver controls after engineers found it was easier to design a car that controlled itself all the time, rather than one that shifted back and forth between manual and autopilot.

“People should still enjoy the experience of driving,” Baidu said.

Xin Haiguang, a Chinese internet expert, said Baidu’s trove of Chinese data were crucial to the project’s success. “Automated driving is highly dependent on interactive data, and needs massive amounts of data,” he said.

But Mr Xin questioned whether driverless cars were suitable for China’s congested roads, where aggressive driving is routine. “In China, we have to work with more disorderly street conditions . . . so it is much harder.”