Chinese internet giant Baidu on Wednesday announced the start of full-scale production of China’s first self-driving minibus, which is expected to be rolled out at tourist sites and airports.
The 100th vehicle has just rolled off the production line, CEO Robin Li revealed at a conference in Beijing.
“2018 will be the first year of commercialization for autonomous driving. With this industrial production of the Apolong minibus, we can truly see the great progress made ” in this area, Li said. The vehicle has 14 seats and its length is about one-third that of a normal bus. It is not equipped with any steering wheel, driver’s seat or pedals. Designed in collaboration with the Chinese bus manufacturer King Long, the minibuses should soon be used in tourist sites, airports, and in several cities such as Beijing, Canton and Shenzhen (south). In 2019, these Baidu vehicles should also be deployed in Japan, in nuclear power plants, or in Tokyo for the transport of elderly people.
These autonomous minibuses will be “level 4”, that is to say without the driver in an enclosed space. Baidu, whose search engine is the leader in China, is a giant in online video and artificial intelligence, including connected objects. This earned it the nickname “Chinese Google”.
“In the past, China exported goods at low prices. In the future, China will export artificial intelligence technologies ”, assured Robin Li Wednesday. He announced at the conference the launch of a new chip dedicated to artificial intelligence and named Kunlun. It can be used for voice recognition or autonomous driving.