While it’s now widely realized that Google has been putting substantial amounts of its money into the development of autonomous driving technology over the last few years, it’s probably far less widely known that the Chinese equivalent of Google — Baidu, the top search engine company in China — has begun to do so as well.
Late last week, the company announced that it had formed a new self-driving vehicle team to be based in Silicon Valley — right in the same general “neighborhood” as Google, interestingly. The new team will be focused on the research, development, and real-world testing of autonomous technologies, according to a new press release.
The team will function as a constituent of Baidu’s newly-created Autonomous Driving Unit (ADU), and will be expanded to include more than 100 researchers and engineers by the end of 2016.
“Baidu is fully committed to making self-driving cars a reality,” stated Jing Wang, SVP of Baidu and General Manager of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit. “Autonomous vehicles will save lives and make transportation more efficient. Baidu’s Silicon Valley car team will play a significant role in building the car of the future.”
The press release provides a bit more:
The team will include machine learning researchers as well as hardware and software engineers across a variety of technical domains, from robotics and computer vision to onboard computers and sensors. Additionally, the company is looking for individuals with experience in the automotive industry.
…The Silicon Valley team will be known as ADU-US. It will focus on areas integral to self-driving car development, including planning, perception, control, and systems. ADU-US will work alongside Baidu’s existing Silicon Valley-based teams, including Baidu Research. Baidu’s self-driving car vision is based on an incremental approach, which includes starting with small “autonomy-enabled” regions and designing autonomous cars to be clearly recognizable.
That last bit sounds a bit foreboding to me — that sort of desire to make autonomous vehicles, and electric cars as well, stand out seems to consistently result in ridiculous-looking vehicles. Hopefully they exercise some restraint on that count.