Baidu self-driving bus

Baidu Self-driving bus launched on Wednesday is China’s first autonomous mini-bus. The internet giant (Baidu) stated it has begun mass production of the country’s first autonomous mini-bus and prepares to roll out the Apolong designed mini-buses, aimed to run at airports and tourist spots.

The CEO of Baidu, Robin Li, at his company’s first AI (Artificial Intelligence) conference that was held in Beijing, said the vehicle has the potential to reshape the world of self-driving cars. Baidu self-driving bus was controlled using Baidu’s software, which it plans to offer for free in the coming years through a project called Apollo. Aimed at making the brain of a self-driving car available to everyone, this project by Apollo could potentially help many indigenous China’s carmakers develop at a rapid pace.

Baidu, which is known as China’s version of Google, received a permit to test its vehicles on 33 roads spanning around 65 miles (105 kilometers) in the outlying district of a city with less population. Baidu is seen as the nation’s leader in autonomous driving.

As China continues to push hard in order to catch up with the United States in terms of public road testing, Baidu is seen best positioned to help the country make for the lost ground. Having opened project Apollo for cars operating in restricted environments, before offering it to vehicles driving in simple urban road conditions, as the company predicts it will have cars fully operating autonomously on regular roads and highways by 2020.

The mini-bus co-produced by two companies named the 14-seater Apolong. The 14-seater Apolong, about one-third of the size of a normal bus is built with no steering wheel, driver’s seat, accelerator or brake. According to the co-producer, Baidu and Chinese bus manufacturer, King Long announced they will soon be pressed into commercial use in enclosed areas such as tourist areas and airports in several cities including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing and the country’s new megacity Xiong’an.

Speaking of the software platform, the software which is currently available to an outside developer is relatively simple, the reason being that it can record the behavior of a car being driven by a person and then play that back in autonomous mode.

The Apollo platform consists of a core software stack, a number of cloud services, and self-driving vehicle hardware such as GPS, cameras, Lida, and radar. The cloud services being developed by Baidu include mapping services, a simulation platform, a security framework, and Baidu’s DuerOS voice-interface technology. This reflects China’s broader ambition to establish itself as a leading hub of artificial intelligence.

According to Li, China in the past exported cheap commodities to the world. In the future, China will export AI technology to the world. Li equally announced a new AI chip called Kunlun which is capable of supporting a wide range of AI applications including natural language processing, autonomous driving and voice recognition.

These buses are set to enter Japan’s self-driving market as shuttle buses at nuclear power stations or in Tokyo to ferry around elderly people in local communities.

As defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the vehicles have the “fourth level” of automation, this means they can operate within an enclosed location without human intervention.

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