Chinese tech giant, Baidu, began working with BMW in April 2014 on a project centered around self-driving vehicles. More than one year later, the partnership is getting close to enjoying the fruits of its labor. According to Baidu’s senior vice president, Wang Jin, the new self-driving car should be hitting the streets in China by the end of the year. When the arrive, the cars won’t be staying on the test track. The goal is to get them on the congested highways in urban centers like Shanghai and Beijing this year.
Baidu and BMW’s prototype car will be a proof-of-concept for the Chinese company’s autonomous technologies, while still allowing humans to step in and take the wheel. Last year, Kai Yu, head of deep learning development at Baidu, claimed the project concentrates its energy on helping drivers instead of making them static passengers.
This varies from Google and possibly Uber’s vision of completely removing the human component from driving. It makes sense for Uber–paid drivers make up the bulk of their workforce. Eliminating drivers who need to be paid would shave company costs dramatically; hence, Uber is racing to develop the tech at its new Uber Advanced Technologies Center on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.
If Baidu and BMW’s predictions are correct, Google will have some new competition from the Eastern hemisphere. It will be difficult to tell how well Baidu’s self-driving cars actually manuever. Perhaps we’ll get to see their report cards, like Google’s self-driving cars. We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.