Baidu has announced a huge investment into autonomous driving, launching a $1.5bn investment fund which will enable the firm to compete with big US rivals in the market.
The Chinese search engine company aims to use the investment fund to develop technology to create fully autonomous vehicles, which are predicted to be road ready in China by 2020.
Named the “Apollo Fund”, after the NASA moon landing, the Chinese internet company aims to invest in 100 self-driving car projects over the next three years.
Baidu’s fund comes after the release of Apollo 1.5, its second generation of open source autonomous vehicle software. The software offers five new capabilities to the Apollo platform including high definition maps, obstacle perception, planning, cloud stimulation and end-to-end deep learning.
Over 70 partners across different areas of the autonomous technology industry including Nvidia, mapping service TomTom and Microsoft Cloud have joined Baidu’s Apollo 1.5 platform.
The release of Apollo 1.5 happened in April, which expanded Baidu’s autonomous driving technology to external third parties as an open platform providing secure and reliable solutions for autonomous vehicles.
Baidu opened the platform to third parties hoping it would quicken its technology development and enable the company to compete with US rivals such as Tesla and Google’s Waymo project that have already heavily invested in the area.
Currently, Baidu are testing their autonomous vehicles in both China and the US after facing challenges with local Chinese regulations, which stopped the company trialling the technology on highways in the past.
The Chinese tech giant is best known for its internet search service and artificial intelligence technology, however over the past few years Baidu’s commitment to autonomous vehicle technology development has shown it is a prioritised aim for the company.
Following other big tech companies such as Tesla and Google announcing their commitment and development to autonomous vehicle technology, Baidu hopes that the investment fund will help establish Baidu in the fast developing market.