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Baidu creates $1.5bn fund to invest in emerging autonomous driving projects

ABR Staff Writer Published 22 September 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.

The company has also released Apollo 1.5, its latest iteration of Apollo open source self-driving platform, which is now claimed to have 70 partners.

Some of its partners include Hyundai, Microsoft Cloud, Nvidia, Continental, Bosch, TomTom, Velodyne, UCAR, ROS, Grab, esd electronics, Neousys Technology, and autonomous driving startups such as Momenta and iDriver+ Technologies.

Apollo self-driving platform was formed by the company back in April this year. The platform was created to develop a unique self-driving system with reference to vehicles and hardware platform.

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.

Developing on Apollo 1.0, the new iteration Apollo 1.5 claims to have added five additional core capabilities including obstacle perception, planning, cloud simulation, High-Definition maps and End-to-End deep learning. These features can add comprehensive solutions to developers and partners in speeding up the deployment of the self-driving technology.

Baidu said: “The obstacle perception capability enables vehicles to accurately identify obstacles during both day and night. With the planning capability, vehicles can plan the correct driving path and make optimal driving decisions.

“The cloud simulation system on Apollo is the only platform that provides open, built-in HD maps tailored for autonomous driving. Based on large scale cloud computing capacity, Apollo has a vast amount of real traffic data in China, and has a virtual running capacity of one million kilometers per day.”

Presently, the Apollo source code is claimed to have been downloaded by more than 1300 companies around the world. And, about 100 companies have applied for open data through Apollo’s website.

Baidu has also signed nearly 50 cooperation agreements with its partners on mass production and joint development plans.

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


Image: A car deployed with Apollo capabilities is on display at Baidu Developer Conference in Beijing in July. Photo: Courtesy of Baidu, Inc.