#Asia Baidu will build self-driving cars with Nvidia, and test them in Silicon Valley


Can Baidu compete with Google, Apple and Tesla Motors?


Baidu announced at its world conference yesterday that it will be teaming up with American tech giant Nvidia to build its autonomous driving platform, marking a major milestone in its goal to roll out self-driving cars by 2021.

In this partnership, Baidu will be able to leverage on Nvidia’s extensive knowledge in AI and deep learning technologies to build a comprehensive end-to-end solution, allowing Baidu to deploy self-driving taxi fleets as well as provide a system for other private cars to go autonomous.

According to Nvidia’s CEO and co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang, heavy research into this sector begun six years ago. And out that R&D, the DRIVE PX 2 engine was born.

The highly advanced AI system, powered by GPU equivalent of 150 Apple Macbook pros, is capable of providing a 369-degree situational awareness around the car, and process data from over 12 video cameras, as well as lidar, radar and ultrasonic sensors. It is also capable of performing up to 24 trillion deep learning operations per second.

Also Read: Does Baidu have an IPO in sight?

In other developments, Baidu now has the green light to test out its self-driving cars in California today, after receiving its autonomous vehicle testing permit from the state of California today. (Baidu first test drove its self-driving cars last year).

To prepare the groundwork, Baidu established a 100-man R&D team in Silicon Valley  — which see a 100 more in 2017  — earlier this year to focus on developing autonomous cars. It also poured a combined US$150 million with Ford Motors into industrial sensor company Velodyne LiDAR about two weeks ago.

In the race for self-driving dominancy, Baidu faces strong competition from Silicon Valley incumbents such Apple, Google and Tesla Motors. In addition, Baidu also has to contend with Chinese-backed companies in the US.

They include LeEco-backed intelligent electric vehicle company Faraday & Future. Chinese car maker Great Wall Motors also opened up an R&D centre in Silicon Valley.

Ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber are also ramping up autonomous driving technology developments. It is interesting to note that Baidu is a major investor of Uber, so it is unclear how future developments in this space will change the dynamics of their relationship.

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