Ni Kai, the former director of Baidu’s driverless car project, was confirmed to have joined Chinese tech giant LeEco to help the company develop its own driverless car.
LeEco’s CEO Jia Yueting posted on Sina Weibo that Ni has joined the company’s electric vehicle (EV) subsidiary to develop a driverless car.
Rumors in Chinese tech scene say that Ni has been with LeEco since the end of 2015. The confirmation came just as LeEco finished building its autonomous car team.
With a doctor’s degree in computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Ni worked at Microsoft before he joined Baidu to run its driverless car and drone project. Ni is known in the tech circle to be a strong leader who’s intelligent and good with decision making. Only two years after he started running the project, the Baidu driverless car completed its first test drive in December 2015.
Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that Baidu will test their driverless car in the US soon, and plan to release a commercial model before 2018. Baidu also said that they will start mass producing driverless cars in five years.
Google was the first company to start developing autonomous cars. It started testing in 2009 and plans to make self-drive cars available to the public in 2020.
Driverless cars are just part of LeEco’s ambition to develop smart cars. LeEco, then known as LeTV, set up their EV division as a company last January. Seven months later, it released a conceptual image of its own EV, the Le Supercar. In September, it recruited Ding Lei, executive of General Motors Shanghai, as the CEO of the EV company. In January, LeEco announced a strategic partnership with California-based electric car company Faraday and unveiled the FF Zero 1 concept car at CES 2016.
On Wednesday, LeEco released a series of strategies to lay out an ecosystem for smart vehicle development.
(Top photo from Google images)