Baidu Teams Up With BMW For Self-Driving Cars

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Chinese search giant may even beat Google in getting its vehicles out on the roads later this year

The smart car wars have taken another twist with the news that Chinese search giant Baidu is preparing to launch a self-driving car.

The company has announced its partnership with German auto manufacturer BMW has been so productive that it could even release a vehicle by the end of the year.

That’s according to Wang Jin, Baidu’s senior vice president, who says that a self-driving vehicle could hit the streets of China in the next few months following a long period of testing.

Drive on

baiduBaidu and BMW first signed a partnership agreement back in April 2014, driving test cars around the complex highways of Beijing and Shanghai.

The prototype car set to launch later this year will have human controls, but will mainly be used to test road-readiness of some of Baidu’s newest technology.

This includes its own data-mapping service, an important part of producing a car that is able to analyse and recognise the world around itself, and artificial intelligence research, including machine learning and the technologies needed for computer vision for cars and other robotics.

But the Guardian also reports that Baidu’s car could benefit from flexible legislation in China concerning self-driving vehicles.

As opposed to the UK and the US, where discussions concerning liability and legality have dragged on for years so far, the Chinese government is far more willing and able to drive through changes that would be required to approve the use of self-driving cars.

Race time?

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Google’s driverless car prototype

Baidu’s rapid innovation will be concerning for Google, which has long been the front-runner in terms of major technology firms aiming to produce a self-driving car.

Last month, it announced that some of its prototypes (pictured right) would soon be launching on the streets of the company’s home town of Mountain View, California.

The search giant revealed it had a “few” models ready to embark on the next phase of testing, which will be limited to 25mph and feature removable steering wheels, accelerator and brake pedals to ensure the drivers can also gain control if needed.

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