Sat, Nov 19, 2016 - Page 12 News List

BMW, Baidu’s joint self-driving cars project breaks down

Reuters, GUANGZHOU and WUZHEN, China

German automaker BMW AG and Chinese Internet giant Baidu Inc (百度) are to end their joint research on self-driving cars, executives for the two firms said yesterday, with Baidu now searching for new global research partners.

Baidu autonomous car development head Wang Jing (王勁) told reporters that the company was now using cars from Ford’s Lincoln in its US testing, declining to elaborate.

“I’m open for any partners, actually I’m talking to many,” Wang said, speaking on the sidelines of China’s third World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China.

The two companies decided to end the cooperation, which involved testing in the US and China, because they held different opinions on how to proceed with research, BMW’s China chief executive officer Olaf Kastner told reporters at the Guangzhou auto show, which began yesterday.

“We now have found that the development pace and the ideas of the two companies are a little different,” said Kastner, without specifying the exact point of disagreement.

At the conference in Wuzhen, Baidu offered test drives of various autonomous driving prototypes developed separately with Chinese automakers Chery Automobile Co (奇瑞汽車), BYD Co Ltd (比亞迪) and BAIC Motor Co (北京汽車).

The test cars drove on a closed road, automatically avoiding a bicycle and overtaking cars moving at various speeds.

Kastner said BMW and Baidu made decisions to part ways after jointly developing the automatic overtaking capability, seeing it as a key milestone for the technology.

The German automaker plans to expand its research and development team for autonomous driving in China, Kastner said.

The two companies are to continue to be partners on high-definition maps, which are vital to the navigation of autonomous cars, he added.

Baidu aims to commercialize autonomous cars on a small scale by 2018, with wider deployment by 2021.

BMW has similarly targeted highly or fully autonomous cars by 2021.

Tech and automotive leaders contend that cars of the future would be capable of completely driving themselves, revolutionizing the transportation industry, with virtually all automakers as well as companies such as Alphabet Inc's Google and parts supplier Delphi Corp investing heavily in developing the technology.

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