China’s biggest search engine group, Baidu, has decided to open up to the world and reveal their business secrets to rivals, and everyone else. The Baidu company just decided to share their self-driving technology secrets, and share them on Shanghai Auto Show.
They revealed their project named “Apollo”, and described it as an “open, complete and reliable software platform for its partners in the automotive and autonomous driving industry to develop their own autonomous driving systems”.
The company seems to be inspired by Google, and its act of launching Android as an open source set of tools so that any and all partner companies could work on its customization if they wanted to.
Baidu’s plan, for now, is to share their secrets in several stages, instead of opening up all at once. For example, they decided to share details of restricted environment driving some time in July. After that, the next piece of their intellectual property will be released at the end of the year, and it will include tech for autonomous driving on the simple urban road, and finally, their “fully autonomous driving capabilities” that are reserved for conditions like open city roads or highways is expected to be released in the near future, probably by 2020.
This method of open sourcing is not exactly new. As we said, Google has done it before with Android, and Tesla did it as well in an attempt to make low-emission vehicles interesting to their rivals and other potential developers. Nothing speeds up the development like a little rivalry.
Before making this decision, Baidu was known to work with several partners, including Chinese carmakers Chery and Baic.
Their advances in the field of artificial intelligence have been widely recognized and they’re often seen as equals with some of the biggest companies in that field, including Google and IBM. Sadly, the company’s most senior talent has left them last month, which was seen as a huge setback. Their chief scientist Andrew Ng decided to leave last month, and now even their general manager of the autonomous driving unit, Wang Jing, has decided to leave too.
Many people have expressed confusion since it’s not clear how exactly will this sharing help the company, and what is their goal, but many agree that getting access to this company’s secrets and research would be of immense value.
Some have suggested that Baidu’s biggest benefit will be collecting user info from the drivers through their autonomous driving and car networking system. It’s also been pointed out that open-sourcing will lead to lowering the cost of creating these cars, and that this will be a great help when it comes to forming some kind of an industry standard.
Even though Baidu has concentrated on self-driving cars heavily in the last several years, one of their interests were also applications for its AI, including speech recognition and also deep learning.
Their chief operating officer, Mr. Lu has stated that AI has a very great potential to drive social development. He sees intelligent vehicles as one of AI’s biggest opportunities.
Their tests concerning autonomous cars from December 2015 were successful, and they even got a permit for Autonomous Vehicle Testing for California during September of 2016.